Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I felt it coming. I knew it was close when I left a tornado and a few curse words in my wake on my way to yoga last Tuesday. The trains were busy and I hadn't packed my gym bag the night before. All I could find were a pair of cut-off running pants, striped with dog slobber. I quickly and clumsily shaved my ankles in the sink with the closest lubricant: hand soap. My mind was fervent with criticism: Who even lets me be an adult? When will I get my act together?

I filled Henley's near-empty water bowl and rushed her through a potty break. Even though I knew she'd had her share of exercise yesterday, and that mamas had to take care of themselves in order to take care of their babes, I guiltly slipped out the front door. I got half way down my block before I had to turn around for my gym ID, which got her all excited again. Zen my ass. Just getting to class was a production.

While I enjoyed the class, I certainly wasn't feeling the yin/yang. My body did the moves, but my head ran right through the next day's to-do list and took a hearty turn onto Insecurity Row.

The week passed quickly, but I felt on edge. I avoided the phone (even more than normal) and spent an entire Saturday ransacking organizing my kitchen--which is filled with other people's things, mind you--in a fit to have everything just so. Would this new normal ever feel effortless? Why does this feel so hard?

I knew it was almost here when that familiar tickle appeared in my throat while I was watching the last episode of Weeds. It erupted from me during the last scene: open mouth cry, breathless sobs. For absolutely no reason and for absolutely every reason under the sun.

I missed my family. (When Weeds makes you miss your family, your family is either super cray-cray or you're one sentimental cat. I plead the fifth. ;) I was still stumbling at work, grappling to learn a new language in a fast-paced office. Still learning my surroundings. Still feeling it all out. Feeling it really intensely, per usual. All of it.

I'm hard on myself. I want to get it right the first time. I want to do it on my own, faster than I did last time, and with absolute grace. I hate to falter, I hate to find the weak spot. Even though this time around I knew I would need to make room for patience and self-care, like one makes space in one's hips during yoga. I still overdid myself, piled on too much pressure, got bent all out of shape.

I love Chicago, and I love my job. My social life is filled with friends both new and old. But I'm not sure you could pay me enough to replay the last six weeks. There's been nothing wrong in particular, it's just that the adjustment has had me so far out of alignment that its almost as if I had to come out the other side. Cue open mouth cry, breathless sobs.

I've been so self-aware, so full of self-doubt. I have been having the absolute best experience I could have hoped for, but it wound me up tighter than I've ever been.

But that's what yoga's for. Last night I got there early, having already ran my 40 minutes of intervals and made my rounds through the weight machines. I chose a mat, a block, a strap, and a blanket, and strategically placed myself next to the only heterosexual male in the room.

The instructor said in her yoga teacher voice, "Find your place on the mat. Get comfortable in a seated position. Set your intention for tonight's practice." I wished she would follow me around through life. "Remember this is your practice, your hour. Honor your limits as well as your growth. If something comes to mind that is not to do with tonight's practice, simply bring yourself back."

Gentle reminders. Bring yourself back. Learn your body's way of saying no, slow down, or dig just a little bit deeper. Open up your heart space: shoulders back, chin up. The position you are in is the perfect position for you, right now. Calmly assess your next move if you begin to feel discomfort. You may find stiff old aches you didn't know were still there. If you feel out of sorts, quietly retreat to child's pose, and join the group again when you're ready.

It's only when you return to the mat that you remember that the struggle is worth it. You can avoid yoga, you can make excuses to dodge the work, but once you're back on the mat, you remember. You get yourself into poses you don't know your way out of. You twist and stretch and go too far and reset. There's the burn and the good hurt, the progress and the sweet release. But you have to return to the mat.

After a few sun salutations, some hell-yes-that's-the-good-stuff-hallelujah hip and IT-band stretches and one are-you-fucking-kidding-me-I-hate-you warrior combination, I returned my gear to the front of the room, gave the token hetero a shy smile, and walked out, feeling taller, a tad more graceful and a lot more relaxed.

"You will be called on to expand," says Danielle LaPorte. "And that is why we practice."

It's true what they say about anxiety: The only way out, is through. You can't hop over it, you can't duck under it, and there's no way around it. You have to face it straight on, head bowed, hands at your heart center. Namaste.