There’s a power in the stillness of a steady yoga practice. There’s this awareness that builds, slowly but so quickly, when you force yourself to stop for a moment and breathe. When you sink slowly into yourself, breathing into long shapes, moving without thinking, yet consciously aware of how every fiber around you connects; there’s a power that can’t be replicated, yet carries into every piece of your daily life. Tuesday this week was the first time I’d gotten on my mat since Saturday, following the big weekend and its subsequent recovery period, and in those few days away from practice, somehow everything and nothing happened. At work on Tuesday, I couldn’t get my mind to focus. In that strange time between everything and nothing, anything else seemed uninteresting, and I could feel the slow slope of despondence start to creep back into my head, a familiar creep that is what you could call step one to my convincing myself I ‘don’t need’ to practice tonight, because really how much better is it going to make me feel anyway?
Okay. I’m going to cut the dreamy speak for a minute and just be real. The past few weeks have fucking sucked. There, I said it. My back is aggravated again from an old yoga injury, work has been crazy, I had a reality check about the things that matter most to me in life, and I can’t go into context here but let’s just say if I hear one more fucking person tell me “You never know what’s going to happen in a year!” or respond to my joking exhaustion related to weddings with “Don’t worry it’ll be your turn someday” I’m going to FUCKING LOSE IT. And actually, last night as I was sitting on my couch after everything and nothing, I did just that. I grabbed a pillow and screamed into it, just screamed, like a toddler having a tantrum. I cradled the pillow between my arms and my chest and dug my fingernails into my arms and just screamed until I lost everything, lost the breath in my lungs and the will to fight this battle that I was never going to win.
Once I was done screaming and I cleaned up the blood from where I managed to break skin on my arms, I sat and stared at my mat that I’d rolled out ambitiously when I got home from work like it was a cockroach in the middle of my living room. In all the screaming, I think I’d finally given up on something that I’ve held onto like a talisman for so many years now: hope. I just couldn’t put the energy into being a hopeful person any longer at that moment. I stared at the mat, gently calling me despite my resistance and sighed, eventually dragging my bloodied and hopeless self to lay for a minute against the cool material of my happy place, and let my carefully curated Yoga Pump Up playlist drift over the mini speaker. As I lay and breathed deeply, I started moving slightly, stretching my arms out, and up, and over, stretching my spine convex, concave. Finally I told myself to get up and stand in a Downward Dog, and then I could go back to wallowing alone on my couch, like always.
And then this song came on while I was stretching “just a little,” and I stopped. I listened for a minute while I took deep breaths in Down Dog, maybe the first real, deep, honest breaths that I’d taken in a long, long time. I let the lyrics run through me like shattered glass and like butter, and I closed my eyes and started moving with the slow beat of the song, forward to plank, rolling into a backbend, opening shoulders and hips and hamstrings and heart. It’s a song that I’ve listened to so many times before, but as I moved and stretched and listened, I realized that I don’t know what the song was about – like it’s written so you don’t know if she’s sighing about how love saved her or how it destroyed her life. The best conclusion I could come to is that it’s both: the words spoke to every end of the spectrum I’ve experienced: the melody played real, true love, and it played to a lost love that feels so long ago. It reminded me how your heart skips at the start of anything, new friends and new beginnings, and how hard it sinks when those things finally come down, pieces scattered like broken memories. As I listened to the song, really listened to it, I let my body move, in total focus, deep breaths, doing what felt right, up to a headstand, down to a split; the whole time the song played behind me, or maybe around me, or maybe through me, and when I finally stopped, I could feel the stirrings of hope come back to me, and I knew everything was going to be okay.
There’s a power to a steady yoga practice. There’s this awareness that builds, slowly but so quickly, when you force yourself to stop for a moment and breathe. There’s a power that can’t be replicated, when you let yourself surrender for just a minute, and become aware of the present moment, and what’s happening right then. Because it’s easy to dwell on the What the Fucks and the Why Mes and the endless, endless parade of shit that storms on all aspects of life over time. It’s easy to live in the past, and try to fix something that can’t be fixed. It’s not easy to look forward all the time. But for me, that night, a few minutes in Down Dog is a way to start looking in a different direction, at least.