It’s been more than six months since I last centered myself and made that crucial mind-body connection that my yoga practice provides, and the effects have been brutal.  The necessity to practice is something I have taken for granted, my thoughts being, yoga will always be there. And, in fact, it is always there, like a dear friend you can rely on. But for the past six months I have been so preoccupied with the stuff of life, I pushed that friend to the back of a drawer, making excuse after excuse not to pay it the attention it so deserves. I missed it terribly but have felt powerless to do anything about it.

Why I chose to re-enter my yoga practice tonight is unclear. I’ve been feeling pretty good these past few days. A welcome change from the darkness that has pervaded my mood for the past couple months. Nothing special happened tonight to prompt me to breathe and twist and focus – the house is quiet, the children are with their father. Dear Vector had errands to run and went home to his puppy. I chose to stay in and do some reading, some writing, some relaxing. I did none of those three things. Instead, I slumped on the couch, in a position that wreaks havoc on my back and shoulders, and watched horrible television. I played four games of spider solitaire on my phone and lazily leafed through a literary magazine about which I have to write a review that is due in three days.

When my puppy unfurled herself from her tight ball of sleep, slowly stepped off the couch, stretching deliciously, and whined to be let out into the yard, I realized I had warped myself into a crippled, hobbled form of an arthritic old woman. I struggled to get up from the couch, my muscles tight and my joints protesting.  I shuffled into the kitchen after Penny Lane who yawned a lovely puppy yawn – she’s exhausted; we went on a two-mile trot earlier today – then stretched again, butt high in the air, shoulders flexing and opening. It is such a natural movement for this graceful little animal, downward-facing dog, indeed. And she was so energized by the stretch. It is time to resume my yoga practice.

Technology almost got in the way of my progress this evening. I fiddled with my external CD drive on my Mac and the damn computer wouldn’t read my yoga CD. I almost allowed myself to feel defeat. I’ve been fighting defeat every day for the past two months – a crushing, hopeless feeling that wore me down and turned me sour. Kneeling before my Mac I clenched my jaw. I needed this to happen. Tonight. Before the momentum disappears. And I needed this yoga CD – it is one I purchased when I spent a weekend at an ashram last year for my 40th birthday. That weekend transformed me, truly. It wasn’t a momentary change, like when you hear a motivational speaker and walk away feeling like you can rule the world, but ultimately you don’t because the speaker didn’t give you any specific direction or guidance how, precisely, to start the process of ruling the world. He, or she, was simply really charismatic. My transformation was nothing like that. I participated in a workshop while I was at the ashram that helped me to examine moments in my life that were peak experiences. Moments of joy, peace, contentment, triumph – small snapshots such as when, last summer, I watched my children run down the sand towards the waves of the ocean, their shoulder blades poking out of their slim backs like the buds of tiny wings. That was a peak moment for me, seeing them running, fearless, into the ocean. In this workshop we captured these moments and identified the emotions they elicited. From there we listed the top five feelings we want to experience everyday and these became our emotional goals. When I am living mindfully, fully immersed in my yoga practice, I question my actions and reactions, I weigh my choices and ask if I am bringing myself towards or away from my emotional goals. This questioning and weighing required a conscious effort for the first few months after leaving the ashram, then it became a split-second awareness. I had practiced, within my yoga and meditation, how to meet my emotional goals.

I chose to play the CD through my stereo and practice my yoga. It would have been easy to snap my Mac closed and bitch about fucking computers and how they are supposed to make life easier, but they just complicate shit, and then return myself to the couch and bad TV. Very easy, indeed. Thankfully, the instinct to live mindfully and reach for my emotional goals was strong tonight. I popped the CD into stereo and engaged in a gentle, healing practice. I was so eager to practice, I didn’t even dig out my mat or change out of my pajamas.

The instructor on this CD facilitated the first session I participated in at the ashram. Her husband played the drums softly as she led us through an awakening practice and focused meditation. What I loved about her session the most was that she encouraged the practitioners not to place judgment on ourselves. She guided us into postures and coaxed us to move as deeply as we wished into the posture without judgment. Within certain postures, as we exhaled she invited us to say, “I release fear.” Upon inhalation, we breathed in presence in the moment.

It is not uncommon to see people become emotional during yoga practice. As I moved in and out of the postures and followed her gentle voice my emotions swelled. I allowed myself to cry in a room of strangers and accept the comfort and the safety of being in a space where there is, in fact, no judgment. It was precisely what I needed within that first hour at the ashram. From there, I saw how necessary it was  to turn 40 years of age in a safe place where it was accepted to be openly emotional during the release of fear and the intake of energy. To be amongst people who were growing and healing and who recognize the need to expunge pain and anger and the burdens we carry with us and silently provide support and empathy as we accept it. I didn’t feel embarrassed when the woman next to me paused from her practice and offered me a tissue. Nor did I feel shame when after the session another woman offered me a hug, and, upon accepting the embrace, I began to weep again. Shame and embarrassment plague me daily. It is within my yoga practice that I have learned to free myself of that pain.

My fluffy red winter socks slipped and skidded on the carpet in my living room as the calm voice lilted from the stereo. I laughed at the slip and pulled my socks off, digging my cold toes into the pile of the new carpet. I struggled to stay in Warrior I, my balance very off and my legs feeling weak. I accepted the change in my practice and didn’t judge. Yoga will be there for me tomorrow. I will allow myself to release my fear and live mindfully. My practice will restore my strength. I just need to get off the couch. And stay off.

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