Yoga in the morning.

I’m rethinking my idea of yoga. I think it is better to do it every day, rather than just once a week at a class. I also think it is better for me to do it first thing in my morning routine rather than at the end.

I hear it is best to do yoga before having breakfast. This would certainly take care of my need to get my morning started but not be in the way of my husband. Our day overlaps by about thirty minutes and if I go into the kitchen where he is it is a little chaotic. I’ve discovered that it is best for both of us if I don’t try to start my morning in the same place where he is trying to finish his.

As an alternative, I’ve been bringing my Kindle into the bedroom to write during that time, and while I may still do some of that, I think that doing yoga then would be good too.

I’d been leaving yoga for the end, just after my shower. Somehow I was running out of time and I was either rushing through the poses or just skipping them entirely. So that isn’t working. When I had been making time to do it I’d also been doing an example of “Praying in Color” and that was good too. In the past several months if I’d done either they were done as a sort of afterthought.

If I do them first, they are done. No excuses.

I like how I feel during the day if I’ve done a little yoga. Things seem to go better. I’ve actually found myself sort of checking in with myself. Did I write? Yes. Did I do yoga? Yes. It is like taking a multivitamin for my soul. If I’ve done it, I feel better.

Now, do I feel better because I’ve done yoga, or because I’ve done something I feel is good for me? I don’t know. This has long been something I’ve wondered about. Is it the activity that matters or the commitment and discipline that matters? Sometimes I think what helps me the most is intentionally living my life, rather than just drifting aimlessly through it.

This is part of why I write. Writing keeps me awake. Writing means I face things, rather than running away from them. Writing means I don’t hide behind the unknowing, behind the questions. When I write, I dig, and when I dig, I learn. I start to uncover, and recover, the truth, and with it, myself.

Writing is yoga too, like that. Yoga isn’t just poses. Yoga is a way of thinking. Yoga is sticking with it and working through it. Yoga is leaning in and being patient. Yoga is trying. Yoga is sometimes just showing up, bored and tired, but there anyway. Yoga is finding the center calm. Yoga is better lived off the mat. Yoga is being awake in the moment.

So why wouldn’t I do this every day? Why wouldn’t everybody?

Rest period.

You know you need to take time off when you start to seriously contemplate calling in sick and then you realize that it is your day off. I’ve crammed so much stuff into my days off that they aren’t days off. I still do just as much work – I just don’t get paid for it.

Now, I’ve come to realize how important momentum is for me. If I laze about all day, then I tend to keep doing that. I’m a binge lazy person. Doing nothing is the same to me as eating sugar is to some people. Once I start, I can’t stop.

Well, I can, but I don’t want to.

I think the trick is to set limits. I have to allow myself time to do nothing. From this time to this – say from 12 until 3, I’ll do nothing on my day off. Nothing at all. Lay on the couch and read, or make jewelry. Something for me. Something fun. That sounds like a good plan. Maybe I’ll do it someday.

Right now, I’m playing a bit of catch up. I decided to skip going to my yoga class. The teacher is more challenging than the first one, but she needs to change things up to keep it interesting. I really get bored if nothing changes. I need to be challenged. I need to try different moves. If nothing else, I need to hear different music. I’d like to think that a yoga class with a real live person is different than watching a videorecorded one.

However, even though it is dull sometimes, I need the discipline of getting up and going. I need to be out of the house early on a Friday, otherwise I’ll stay in my pajamas all afternoon long and not get any of my chores done. And then I start to think – is that so bad? Is it bad to rest? Is it bad to actually take a day off?

It is for me. I feel guilty if I rest.

I have a bad relationship with rest. I really am starting to like the idea of the Jewish Sabbath. One whole day where you are commanded to do as much nothing as possible. You can’t feel guilty about doing nothing – you are supposed to do nothing. You are supposed to feel guilty if you do something. You are to rest and recharge and refuel.

We just don’t have that in Christian culture. Sure, we sometimes refer to the day we go to church as the Sabbath, but we don’t treat it with anywhere near the preparation and seriousness the Jews approach their Sabbath. And I think we suffer because of it. Imagine how cool it would be to have a holiday once a week. Once a week you take a vacation from the world, and enter into a special time where there is nothing you have to do except rest. Sounds just like heaven to me.

I have a bit of the “get things done” feeling in part because my parents died young. I feel like it is important to not waste time. I see how quickly time slips by and then you are either too old to do something with your life, or too feeble. Some things take time to get going. Better start now.

But then I am starting to understand that I need to rest too. There are rest periods build into yoga. It isn’t go go go. The human body just can’t handle that. The space between the notes is what makes the music, so says Claude Debussy.

This is why I’ve signed up for another retreat. It is a time of silence and rest. All my physical needs are taken care of. There is a place to sleep, and food is prepared for me. All I have to do is show up and be present. The only electronic device I use is my Kindle – and I use it to write. I don’t check email. I don’t check Facebook. The only input is from God.

I think that I need to do this more than just four times a year. I need to set aside a chunk of time to just listen, and by that I don’t mean little snatches of time. The more I pack into my day, the more God can’t get a word in edgewise. I pray throughout the day, but it all seems to be in five minute pieces.

Sure, bills have to be paid. Sure, the housework needs to be done. But if I don’t take time off, time to just be, then I’ve become something other than a human. I’ve become an automaton, a robot, a thing. I’ve become a human doing, and not a human being.

So I still wrestle with this. I feel like I’m in overeaters anonymous. Having a bad relationship with food isn’t like having a drug addiction – you have to eat food. You can give up heroin. You can’t give up food. So how to you create a healthy relationship with something you have to have in your life? I think boundaries are part of it. I can allow this, but not this. I can allow this time to be work and this time to be free. I think it is important to self-police too. I think it is important to not allow my free time to become work time.

I’ll report back on whether this works or not. As of right now, I’m still in my jammies and it is 1:30. I think I have to wrench myself free and go out for a bit, just so I can say I’ve done something. My head gets a little fuzzy with too much nothing.

Tree pose without doing tree pose.

I know a lady who dislikes going to the grocery store. I understand. I feel the same way. It isn’t all the food. It is all the people and color and noise and choice. It is all too much and it is overwhelming.

She does yoga, so I suggested this – do tree pose, without doing tree pose.

There is a certain deliberate calmness you have to adopt to do tree pose. You have to pull all of your energy into yourself. When you are there, you can balance. You can breathe better. You can stand strong, even though it is only on one foot. You aren’t holding on to anything, yet you don’t need to.

You are strong. You are centered. You are whole.

Do that. But without doing tree pose. The pose is just a reminder. The point of the pose has little to do with the physical balance you gain and the strength you develop in your ankles.

That’s nice too. Not getting hurt from twisting your ankles anymore is a nice side benefit of yoga. But it is only part of it.

The real part is what happens inside. The real part is what happens deep down. The real part is the balance and the centeredness and the calm that you are able to call on when life is too much and too crazy and too full and too much.

The real part is that you don’t even need to stand on one foot to get there once you’ve done it enough.

Sometimes, just being able to do forward fold is a big thing.

This last Friday was the first time in three weeks I could do a full forward fold. For three weeks I could barely bend forward at all, much less put my hands flat on the ground. I could touch with my fingertips, and then with my knuckles. But the full expression of this pose eluded me.

After I slipped a disc in my back things got a lot harder, and a lot more frustrating. I’d been making really good progress for a while. I had gotten to the point where I could do full wheel. And mermaid. And side plank. And full cobra. And bound side angle.

These are all pretty cool moves. Not near as cool as scorpion or firefly, sure, but still pretty advanced for me. Then I couldn’t do anything. I was stuck. Just sitting was hard. Bending my neck forward was hard. I could stand or lie flat. Transitioning in between wasn’t easy.

But Friday was the first time I could even do something as simple as a full forward fold. It wasn’t just that it hurt before. It was that my back was too tight and I couldn’t reach that far.

I was dismayed. I felt that I’d gone twenty steps backwards. I felt a little betrayed too. Surely all those exercises that I’d done for all these years would mean that I’d insured myself against such indignities like a slipped disc. My self-righteousness got a good hard kick in the butt.

But this too is yoga. It is showing up, and giving it your best, and not judging. It is not judging others or yourself. It is doing your best, and forgiving yourself if doing your best means just wanting to go to yoga class but you just can’t make it this week. Or this month. It means being OK with the practice, wherever you are in it.

Just wanting to is part of the practice. Falling is part of the practice. Getting back up, body and ego bruised, is part of the practice.

I remember how I felt when I did headstand and handstand a few months back. I felt like a rock star. Those are pretty amazing moves. Sure, I was braced up against a wall so I wouldn’t fall over, but I stayed up. The strength in my neck and in my arms held my entire body up. I never would have imagined I could do it. I’m glad I tried. I felt invincible.

Funny thing, this Friday, when I did forward fold for the first time since I hurt my back, I felt the same way.

Maybe that is the secret. Be content with what you can do, right now. Don’t judge it, and don’t expect it to stay that way. It is what it is. Take your successes but don’t gloat about them.