Yoga, Paddleboards, Gators & Sharks …

Posted 03/11/15 5:10 PM by

  “The quieter you become the more you can hear” Ram Daas


I have spent a lot of time in the last week working on putting my phone down, looking the boys in the eye when we are chatting, to be more present. Before Lulu gave me her gentle reminder that I was on my phone too much – I had thought I was pretty plugged in. Maybe I was, but what I’ve learned in the past few days is that I  need to do more than put my phone down.

It’s always been interesting to me that when I learn something new about myself, it’s rarely new. It’s usually the same lesson packaged in a different way, with a different bow and a different message on the tag. In the work of putting my phone down I realized it wasn’t my phone that was distracting me … 

I’ve said before that I dread the end of summer and the coming of books, school, pressing commitments. I enjoy the time with the boys in the summer months where we build our scheudle around baseball and lacrosse and eventually football – but fit in our bike rides and reading and laying on the porch together or walking in our woods and venturing to put sand between our toes. As September came at us this past fall I decided I would try and offset my school melancholy by doing something I  always wanted to do. I am fortunate enough to stay home with the boys – and while my hours with them away at school are full to the brim – I do have the flexibility and the support from E to do some things for myself. I committed to 10 yoga classes. 

While exercise is nothing new for me – if you know me you know I was a figure skater and then a coach for most of my life and that love of moving and exercise continues and I rarely have a day that doesn’t inlcude exercise in some way or another. Yoga has always interested me – the balance, the peace, the work. I had dabbled in it at home a bit and take a class or two at the Y but this time I decided to go to a real yoga studio and try my hand.  It wasn’t just the exercise that I was searching for – but also the focus and peacefulness it claims to bring. Being inside my own head for an hour or two sounded like something I needed to do.  I feel as though I am always moving, always thinking and pushing forward.  I wanted to find a way to better center myself, seek some balance from a place I had always found comfort – exercise. 

My first class was on a gorgeous day in September – the first Monday the boys went back to school. I was excited! The studio was beautiful: hard wood floors, exposed brick, a wall of windows. I felt at home, it felt warm and comfortable. I had choosen the basic class – not having wanted to get involved in a class over my head – and as we were lead through the practice I quickly realized that for my body this class was well below where I needed to be. Mentally, though? I could not pull myself into a place of presence, I made grocery lists, I evaluated everymove (Is this fun? Do I like this? Is this hard enough? I will have to go to the gym after this – will I have enough time? I still need to go to the store and the post office and the pick up scripts and drop off dry cleaning …) There is a reason my boys are so competitive and it’s not all Eric’s fault. My eyes roamed the room, evaluating my performance, deciding where I fit in (I guess I don’t suck at this terribly, I’m better at this than that lady over there, that girl is really good …)  In short: I could not be in my own head long enough to hear anything except busy work. I spent an hour, mindlessly following directions, moving my body in strange ways, accommodating and participating in class – without paying attention to one thing. I tried to breathe as I was told … but I was often breathing out when I was supposed to be breathing in or breathing too long or too short or holding my breath … Sigh

It didn’t get any better when we reached the end of our time and my instructor gave instructions for savasana. I had heard about the quiet period at the end of a yoga practice, a period of time after your work which provides for deep relaxation and a regrouping of sorts of your body, mind and thoughts. This is why I was here! I need to learn how to keep myself in balance, to resist the constant stream of information that is coming in, to feel myself in my moments instead of perpetually looking too far forward. I laid down, only mildly taxed by the practice, and gently settled my mind into the heat of my body. I felt my shoulder blades against the hard floor, I closed my eyes and splayed my feet out. I listened to my breath, scanned my body for tension or residual work that needed to be released … and then my mind began to chime in …

I really enjoyed this … this was fun … I knew I would like yoga, this room is beautiful. I should have sat my mat down up closer to the window, then I could feel the sunshine. This wasn’t that hard though – I think I should do the hour and a half vinyasa class next time. This was too easy. Jackie said Nate teaches yoga classes on paddleboards on the lake in the summer. That would be super cool. I would love that. I think I could paddleboard down in Florida! The water is so calm in the harbor some mornings. Maybe I could go take some of Nate’s classes on the lake next summer and learn how to do yoga on my paddleboard. I could do it in the mornings before the boys and E wake up. I bet I could see the sun rise from out on the water. That would be cool. I wonder if the paddleboard is too tippy – would it tip over? I bet I’d tip over – and there’s gators in the water there.  Well, that’s what mom said. I don’t know if they really come that far from the mouth of the river. The water’s too brackish. They might though. There are sharks in there, I bet. What if I was doing yoga on my paddleboard and a shark bumped the bottom of my board – what would I do? The boys and Eric wouldn’t even be awake yet to know I was in trouble! I’d probably drown and get eaten by that damn shark … or a gator … I better not do yoga on my paddleboard … 
 
And … savasana is over. I spent the entire time fighting imaginary sharks and gators and zero time centering myself or looking for balance – which I clearly needed. I almost cried when she said I should wiggle my fingers and toes – I missed it! I spent an entire hour waiting for that very important peace at the end and I buzzed right through it with a saw. How had I let my brain be hijacked – by myself! I had started out so well, I had such good intention. While intention is good, I’ve learned that it’s not much without action. I did go back to yoga – I began doing the longer vinyasa class and I found myself much more successful during savasana after a more rigorous and physically taxing practice. My mind still wonders, but the fatigue serves as a bigger purpose in reminding me to rest my thoughts and my body. To let my mind be still – to not allow the gators and sharks to come visit. Or the grocery lists, or the tasks I’m afraid I will forget to do. 
 
That day at the yoga studio came back to me this week as I struggled to stay focused on keeping my hands free. I do need to put my phone down – for certain – but more so I think I need to put down my busy-ness. Being busy is fine – it rounds my life out to help out on the lacrosse board and the baseball board and the football board, to volunteer at school.  I need to find a way to settle. To let my mind rest. My compulsion to check my phone, I’ve learned this week, comes from an ever churning wind mill in my mind. Creating energy and thoughts and ideas and lists and plans and and and … it’s exhausting. I need to simplify. Not just put my phone down. I need to do some soul searching about where I spend my time, who I spend it with and what that means for my legacy as a momma and wife. 
 
When Jackson was in kindergarden he went to school in the afternoon. Every morning we would get up and make breakfast, read, play a game, and when it was nice we went for a leisurely walk down our long driveway to the bus, stopping to throw stones in the ditch or wander through the corn rows on our way. I made that effort, I made sure those hours were spent with him – becuase I’d already learned how much I missed Cooper when he was gone all day – the big second grader he was. I need to get back to that space, where I shoot baskets with the boys, make breakfast and read a book – and I’m not making a list in my mind of all the things I need to do. I want the boys to know there’s no place in the world I’d rather be then right there with them. It’s not as if this is a new lesson, it was just wrapped up differently, with a bigger bow. It took me longer to untie it. I need to send the gators and the sharks packing. 
 
Take care,
 
Lara

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