In which I proselytize about yoga and life.

“You use the wall for strength. You don’t use it for balance.”

Last Saturday morning, I made my way to the Upper East Side for a yoga workshop with the incomparable Kerri Verna. I last took a workshop with her in February (if you recall), and wouldn’t have passed up an opportunity to practice with her again. Admittedly this workshop was not quite as evocative, physically nor emotionally, as the February one, but I think some of that was my own fault: I set my expectations very high, now that my inversions are nine months more practiced and advanced, and like all good lessons learned from the mat, my expectations were shattered, as the majority of workshop attendees were super new to any inversions, so we spent more time on fundamentals than the mid-room inversion practice I’d been hoping for. When we did finally start reviewing handstands, Kerri said the above line to the room, and I felt my face go beet red, because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing at home to practice handstands.

I walked away from the class slightly disappointed: it ran way over and I had to leave early to catch a train, leading me to miss savasana and the chance to spend time with her one-on-one, and my ego was a little frustrated that we hadn’t worked on the more advanced postures, despite taking valuable lessons in fundamentals away from the session. On the long train ride back to Connecticut, I decided to pull out the tiny notebook I keep in my purse for emergency inspiration and began writing. I journaled a stream-of-consciousness more than anything, trying to keep my handwriting steady as the train rocked left, right, but when I stepped back after 30 minutes of furious scribbling, the words from Kerri above are what stood out the most.

As the thought rolled around in my head, I started to relate it to a lot that’s been happening lately in life, and not just my own but in the lives around me as well. I see it in everyone that’s gotten married or will get married this year, and I see it in the sad moments, like walking into my childhood home on Saturday, only to run upstairs and burst into tears, because for the first time in eight years, the half-golden, half-Rottweiler welcome committee wasn’t there to guide me in the house before tackling me in slobbery kisses. There are these waves of life, new beginnings with endings, sad stories with a happy ending, which can all come back to something as simple as a handstand against a wall: the wall is for strength, not balance. What you choose to fall back on in life is for strength, but not for balance. The people in our lives that support us are for strength so we can pull ourselves out, but balance is something only we can achieve.

Balance is such an interesting and fragile concept, like balancing a needle on a thread, as someone important once told me. There’s the physical aspect of balancing, but on a higher level, balance is something we’re all desperately seeking in our lives. There’s the ever-difficult quest for a work-life balance and learning how to juggle responsibilities at home and to yourself, with the constant pull for happy hours and 4am nights in the city. As I thought this weekend about balance, and the walls I’ve been using to keep me upright, I thought about how the biggest balancing act I’ve had to manage in the past six months is between the strength I’ve gained from being on my own for two years, and the balance I’m chasing between the many selves, from the 23 year old party girl, to the brokenhearted 25 year old, to the 27 year old almost-yogi I can feel still present in the LB typing this entry now.

Probably the biggest thing I took away from the class on Saturday was the ability to reassess my life right now, and decide to take a step back from handstand practice. I may have the strength to hold myself up, but in the past two weeks things have felt so off balance, it’s no wonder I’d been leaning on the wall to keep me grounded. I walked away from a workshop feeling disappointed I couldn’t push myself into a pose, but in that disappointment I’ve found a calm peace of mind. We forget sometimes that the mind and body are intrinsically connected in ways we’ll never understand. Sometimes it takes a few weeks of getting back to the fundamentals before we can push ourselves away from our support systems, and find a balance on our own two feet – or in my case, hands.

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Teeter

After a wonderful mini-break at my parent’s in CT for the holiday, complete with post-Christmas hike and obligatory “look at me doing yoga outside” Instagramming, I made it up my stairs on Saturday afternoon to find that little miss had somehow gotten hold of one of the roses I’d left on my windowsill and that I had a package from my partner-in-crime R. After vacuuming up the aggressively shredded rose petals and scolding the cat gently, I grabbed a knife and tore into the box. I had an inkling it was the formal request to join her as a bridesmaid when she and her Scot H are married next year, but it was so much more than the goofy card I’d imagined. Inside was a beautiful card and a delicate silver necklace with a needle charm. Immediately donning the necklace and fighting back tears at the personal words she’d included, I took a look at the card, which started with the following phrase: A happy life is not built upon the goal of perfection, but balance.

Those words have been rattling around in my head this week, while I’ve been enjoying a few days off from the office to paint two rooms in my apartment and prep for new furniture arriving next month. Unsurprisingly, none of this redecorating process has been in any realm of perfection, let alone any semblance of balanced: the grand idea of painting stripes along my bedroom wall was nearly ruined when I accidentally lost track of stripes and started painting the wrong one, I bought the wrong type of paint for the kitchen, and I didn’t buy nearly enough. Also, I still haven’t unpacked from my days in CT, living out of my suitcase for no reason other than sheer laziness. And outside of redecorating, even though I’ll be enjoying a great night planned by H to ring in the New Year tomorrow, I’m semi-wallowing in the fact that despite all the new tattoos, the new job, the redecorated apartment and all the lessons learned, I feel like I’m in the exact same place I was this time last year. It seems reading those words about balance on the card from R has put a lot of tiny things into a very large perspective.

Balance is not something that comes naturally to me. I mean that in a few different ways, like how I fall down pretty much all the time or how this morning I though chocolate was a healthy start to the day. But outside of those little things, I’ve quickly learned in this year plus of being single, that it’s really difficult to balance all the important parts of my life: work, yoga, blog, personal whatever. As I’ve recently learned, it’s even worse when those parts of me collide, leaving me somewhere on a spectrum of terrified, to elated, to sitting on my couch on a weeknight after eating half a salad, three drinks in, asking myself how the fuck I managed to tip the scale in the wrong direction yet again. It’s like sitting on the bottom of a see-saw alone, wishing it would bounce up and down despite no one counterbalancing you on the other side. It hurts in a very resolute yet resigned place, stuck teetering to one side, never experiencing the upswing or the joy of a well-balanced anything.

When I finally finished painting the bedroom, I started to pull the tape off the wall, hoping that if nothing else, the stripes weren’t a complete disaster, mostly because I didn’t have a plan B if they were, I’m so freaking sick of paint fumes and I can’t keep telling little miss that no, none of this is food so please stop sticking your face in the paint cans. And honestly, the walls are FAR from perfect, despite obsessive measuring with a level and a lot of hard work. But after I managed to rearrange the furniture back to it’s new normal, and got my shit together enough to put away clothes I’d packed a week ago, I took a step back and realized it actually looks pretty good. Maybe even close to the image I’d had in my head. I twirled the beautiful necklace that hasn’t left my neck since Saturday and smiled down at little miss, who was happily crunching on a stray piece of tape. None of this is perfect, and none of the problems I keep playing over and over in my head are going away any time soon. But maybe it’s okay that I haven’t found that balance yet, or maybe I never will. Either way, I’ll have these beautifully wonky walls, a tiny silver needle and the hope that balance is out there somewhere to keep me going for now.