Expectations and the comforts of home.
Have you ever seen that episode of the X-Files where Mulder has to drive with a guy at a certain speed and they have to travel West or the man hears a piercing noise in his ear and if they stop or go a different direction his head will explode? Toward the end of my first year of grad school I developed the most awful head pain ever. I couldn't see, I couldn't think, and I couldn't get any relief--I did try to contact David Duchovny to see if he might be up for a ride. I went to the doctor and it was a tension headache. I retroactively felt incredibly horrible for every time I heard about someone missing something for a headache and thought they were a wuss. My doctor gave me some muscle relaxers and sent me on my way. But the thing is, even when I got the tension in my head and neck muscles to go away, the stress that caused the tension was still there waiting for me. One suggestion my doctor made to me was to try yoga.
Yoga? Yoga. What even is yoga? I googled it and was surprised that it was not what I saw people doing in the park growing up--that was Tai Chi (who knew?) and there was something about a mountain pose and a whole bunch of other words I couldn't say and I remember demos of men in what looked like wrestling singlets. Needless to say, I was not running out to find the closest yoga studio. But I had a friend that did yoga and I could go free to class because he was a member so, I signed up for a beginners informative class. I can't say that I had any idea what they were talking about. Something about saluting the sun and being sure to take rest and drink water. I can take rest and drink water. So, I bought the 30-day trial membership and I went to a power vinyasa class. O.M.G. Power vinyasa is the real deal, no sit and stretch and breathe and take rest here. But I was hooked. I kept going back for the physical practice and the challenge but I picked up something else that I didn't even realize until a lot later. Breath. I learned how to breathe. In 2011, at the ripe old age of 24, I finally learned how to breathe.
I was at a yoga class the other night. It was a power vinyasa class and I was already sore so my mind was doing what it was designed to do and it was thinking and screaming and wandering and judging and thinking and wandering. My balance was off and I fell out of poses and lost my breath but I lived. I practiced my breath and regained some balance and tuned some stuff out and it was a great practice, but I also focused in on something. The instructor said more than once a phrase that stuck out to me. "It isn't easy but it's simple."
It isn't easy, but it's simple. The physical practice of yoga is guided by breath. Just keep breathing. Simple, right? Keep breathing after 6 Sun B's that are a breath a pose each? My legs are talking, my arms are talking, my abs are like "omg, we do exist!". To not let all the noise and the chatter of life take you out of what you're doing is HARD. To keep it together after your baby had vaccines and was up 5 times in the night and you have a 7:30 am class followed by a 9:25 and 10:50 and it's snowing and you're SO hungry and you eat an almond croissant in the car that's delicious but easily outranks pasta as the worst date food ever because it was messy AF and it's all over you when you walk into class and exams are a week away and your students are practically vibrating their nerves are so fried and they need reassurance and 15 other things from you is HARD. But breathing is simple, right?
I kept going to that studio I first walked into for five years. I loved it. I often found myself running to the studio just to get it out, whatever it was. I had classes that I went to because I was excited, some I went to because I was bored, some I went to because I needed a break, and on a couple of really hard days I cried through the entire practice. I felt so at home there--I always knew what to expect and I always walked away glad I had come. Class was not always easy, it wasn't always easy to be able to make time, it wasn't always easy to fight traffic to get there, but what I needed to do was simple. Show up and breathe.
The other day we were talking about expectations in my Nonverbal class (I finished grad school and became a professor once I learned how to breathe)--to be more specific we were talking about violations to our expectations. How do we deal with having our expectations violated? Are all expectancy violations bad? What if someone is unexpectedly wonderful? So anyhow, this led to some great conversations and of course to podcasts. (Click and listen to the intro of this podcast if you want to hear about a serious violation to expectations).
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I recently had my second child. After five wonderful years at my studio, I cancelled my membership. I couldn't regularly get there and so I decided to take a break and drop-in when I could. It was really scary. Ever since I've been practicing yoga I've been a studio member. I knew the teachers, the staff, the environment, I knew the schedule by heart--I loved it. I don't have a yoga home right now and I can feel it.
When I was in undergrad I wrote a paper on couch surfing. If you're not sure what that is, basically a person has no address of their own and they sleep on couches of friends, family, strangers, for a period of time until they are asked to or need to move on. I am a yoga couch surfer. I do yoga where I can, when I can. Sometimes I know people and sometimes they are all strangers. Sometimes I feel welcomed and sometimes I feel like it's time to move on. I don't know what to expect when I walk into a new studio or space which is partly terrifying but also exhilarating.
I miss my yoga "home". I miss the comfort and the familiarity. I went in search of places to pop in when I have time-deals, special events, interesting themes and so on. I was absolutely SHOCKED at how many different yoga events, studios, workshops, existed in my area. I currently have a list that I am working through. I printed a whole bunch of events off for the month of December and am exploring this brand new yoga world. I stepped out of my comfort zone and away from my home. I didn't know what to expect. I still don't. But last night I lay on my mat with a pillow and a bolster snuggled up in a blanket, the room was dark and full of people I did not know. I listened to a man chant and play singing bowls and talk me through letting each part of my body release. It was magical. I walked out into the cold, crisp air after and thought, "damn, I never thought I'd do that!". My whole body felt alive, I have never been more aware of how my body feels. I can't wait to make my way through the rest of my December yoga list.