This is really beautiful: Phillip Askew & Lydia Walker – Variations On Surya Namaskara:
(Reblogged from here.)
The other day I had what I decided to call a “poor me” day. A colleague in Europe keeps scheduling meetings at 8 AM EST, when I usually get to the office at 8:35, and with YB it’s hard to change my morning routine to come in any earlier. Why can’t the folks in Europe have meetings at 3 PM their time instead of 2 PM? My office just went through a restacking process and most of the employees had to move seats, and because I was switched to a new group last summer, now I’m not sitting with my friends from my old group anymore. And why is no one coming to my yoga classes? Well, I know why, and I need to do more marketing, but it’s so hard! And I want to see friends and family more often, but it’s hard enough just keeping the three of us washed and fed, never mind that F was just sick for a month straight and there’s piles of things all over the dining room table and the office upstairs and toys all over the porch. When are we supposed to do our Christmas shopping? It’s just hanging over me like an anvil of holiday disappointment; no one’s even scheduled any holiday parties or anything yet and I’m already feeling the pressure. What’s the running theme here? It’s so hard! Poor me! When I get in a funk like this, there are two things I try to do.
First, I try to look at all the things worrying me in an objective way. Yes, work can be tough sometimes, but I have an interesting, challenging job working with people all over the world on exciting products I really believe in. Would I want another job? No way. And I love teaching yoga. This is my passion – it’s worth the work to market my class, and it’s not going to happen overnight. As for friends and family and holidays: poor me, I have all these wonderful people who love me and want to spend time with me! Every time we make the time to connect with friends and family, it’s totally worth it and I’m always so glad we did. And as for that biggest time eater, the one who makes all of the above more challenging – well, I’m sure not giving HER away. It’s hard to be a mom, to make sure she’s clean and dressed and warm and eating something remotely nutritious, and to keep her entertained and content and learning, but she brings me joy every single day. I love watching her explore the world; she makes all the work worthwhile.
The other thing I think about is that all of those “poor me” statements are passive. “Look at all the bad things happening to me and making my life so hard!” they’re saying. This kind of mindset ignores the fact that I chose my life. I chose to live in this city, to accept this job, to have this child – my life and my responsibilities didn’t just happen to me, I chose them freely. And I have the power to make other choices that affect my daily life. I can talk to my colleagues about meeting scheduling and try to actively develop a better plan; I choose to make a big deal out of Christmas because I love it; and if I’m truly overwhelmed, I have the power to say no and sign up for fewer things. I have choice and agency in how my life unfolds, and I have the power to make change happen. Keeping this in mind when I start to experience the “poor mes” will help me keep a yogic attitude and get less frustrated with the little details of my amazing life. I don’t have to get attached to the little frustrating things – I can let them go and focus on what’s really important.
My husband F and I have been noncommittally watching this season of The Voice – we never have time to sit through a whole episode, but it’s fun to watch, Cee-Lo’s clothes are hilarious, it’s seemingly always on, and even when it’s not on it’s available on demand, so even if we only have 15 minutes to sit down and relax, we can see what’s happening in the competition. So last night we were watching from 9:00 to 9:30 or so, and what a nice surprise it was to see Christina Aguilera making one of her contestants do yoga – and it was even normal yoga, not space-cadet woo-woo celebrity yoga! Christina had noticed that this singer was really tense, so she brought in her own yoga instructor for some stretching and relaxation. The one stretch they were shown doing was a seated twist, with the intention of opening the chest and opening up space in the lungs – which totally made sense, both as a description of the action in the pose and as an appropriate pose for this singer to be doing. How nice to see yoga presented in a realistic way as a practical solution! Kudos to Christina, who has, to be honest, been surprising me all season with how smart and down-to-earth she is. I don’t know if I’ll be adding “Genie in a Bottle” to my next yoga playlist, but I might just check out her next album.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the role of mirrors in a yoga class. The studio where I’m teaching now (Wellness on Park! Tuesdays at 7:30!) doesn’t have a mirror wall, and neither does EEY, but I’ve practiced at plenty of studios that do, and if you’re taking yoga classes at a gym, the fitness room will almost always have a mirror wall. Mirrors can be great for yoga practice because often, catching sight of yourself while in an asana will lead you to immediately correct your posture – dropping your shoulders, twisting farther, standing up taller, straightening your arms. Seeing what you look like can help you fix issues you can’t feel.
But just as often, mirrors can lead you to being overly critical. Practicing without a mirror, you might feel like a rock star, which pretty much instantly dissolves when you catch a glimpse of your belly or your tush. Especially as women, we get so used to hating certain parts of our reflections, which makes it hard to see the whole – which in a yoga class is you, strong and powerful.
Looking in the mirror can lead you to compete with others, trying to make your posture match that of the person beside you, regardless of whether your level of ability matches that of the other person. It’s so much easier to compare when we see ourselves side by side with someone else in the same pose. We forget that what’s natural and healthy for her may not be good or even possible for us. And when there’s a mirror, it’s hard NOT to look in it, which changes the focus of your whole practice, keeping you constantly peeking instead of focusing your mind on your mat.
In recent years, I’ve come to prefer practicing without a mirror. I lose those valuable visual cues that could improve my asana, but I’m less apt to compare myself to others without that visual reminder that I’m not actually a rock star, and I’m better able to focus on my own experience of the pose, what the pose feels like to me and whether it feels right for my body. My experience of the asana can become internal, rather than external. This is what I want to share with my students: every person’s yoga practice is unique, and uniquely beautiful, because no two bodies are the same. My warrior 2 is not better than yours or anyone else’s. Keep your mind on your own mat, and be present here, now.