Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Yogi Dark Side

I call myself a yogi, but here, I will say it...I find it impossible to practice at home. Huh? What kind of yogi can't practice by themselves at home? I could give you a million excuses. Too much clutter, too dusty, too much distraction, and on and on.

At first, I failed to develop a home practice because I was so blessed to be in an environment that offered me regular easy access to great teachers. I could just stop by the studio after work for an amazing ashtanga group practice. Or get up extra early, bike to a  mysore practice on the way to work. I could walk to a practice on weekends, or go to a free class in the park in the summer, and on and on.

Then I moved to Costa Rica, where I lived in the middle of nowhere. Now I was ready to go deep and really make waves into my yoga practice.  I remember one great practice I did on the deck amid the trees, listening to the waterfall, surrounded by nature. But then, each morning after I couldn't get out of bed. I was so tired. I couldn't figure out why. I got so mad at myself. Since it is coolest in the mornings, it is the best time to practice.

Soon after, I started to feel so sick in the mornings. What is going on with me? Oh whoops, it turns out I was pregnant.

I continued to teach yoga though. For a month I stayed at an ecolodge on the Osa peninsula. There, I taught twice a day, morning sickness and all. But every time I sat down to practice by myself, nestled in a tropical paradise, I just felt so off and so ill, and so if I did anything, I would just flop into soft stretches.

Finally, I had my baby and my body(ish) back. Joy, I thought, I could finally start to practice at home! No. Sorry. I have the fussiest baby in the world (so it seemed) who never slept and needed me at every moment.

Attempting to do yoga with my three-month old son

I remember laying out my mat in our small cabin home in the country next to the wood-stove. My son, just a few months old, sat on his pillow watching me with wide open eyes. It was so cold outside, and the wood-stove helped me to loosen up quick. Not quick enough though. Even while talking to and incorporating my son into the practice, he became weary. I aborted my attempt at yoga, and didn't try again until the spring.

I just felt all too frustrated, and innately sad. Now living far off in the country, I didn't have access to teachers and yoga studios that I once had. I missed my old teachers, my old body, my old yoga practice. Doing my new (pathetic) version of yoga just made me all the more sad. So, excuse #52, instead of dealing with the frustration and sadness, I just choose to focus on my new baby. And that was okay. My practice had just changed for now. I have plenty of time to be practice yoga, but only so much time to have babies.

With my son a few months old, I started teaching yoga regularly again, and it made me happy to at least be doing a bit of yoga. In the spring, I'd try to do a few stretches in the morning sunlight on the porch after my husband left for work. My son would manage to stay contented at my side for a good 15 minutes, if I was lucky. Until he started to crawl at least.

Spring yoga with my five-month-old son

It was in the spring, that I started to fully accept my new path as the fallen yogi/new mom. The less I strived to be the person I was, the easier it was to be happy just being.

In my old life, I was a "doer" who ran herself ragged from doing thing after thing. Now, busy as I may be with the fussy non-sleeping baby, I was also quite isolated in a new place without any friends. This left me a lot of empty time. I went from learning and practicing, to putting it into practice. To my own dismay, I had no mind or will to sit and practice my hatha yoga or my chants or the vajrayana buddist practices I spent so long learning from my gurus. Now I had to be my own guru and live the practice.

Fast forward to now. My son is three. I have a new baby daughter who is two months. Although I didn't get to practicing yoga like I used to, I did get back into decent yogi shape. However, I didn't do any better with practicing prenatal yoga during this pregnancy either. Even though I taught vinyasa yoga well into my sixth month, my body just screamed at me to do less. Having a toddler was enough. And yes, I admit it. I got lazy. I put my yoga practice down on the list of priorities.

38 weeks with baby #2
Although I felt pretty healed up and back to it after about a month post-birth, I have been feeling extremely weak and "empty" feeling. Not the good sunyata emptiness either (the Buddhist view that everything is devoid of any inherent existent). More like the I-have-zero-chi-or-fire-in-my-belly-zombie-no-zest-for-life sort of feeling.

Out of complete fear that I shall remain a zombie the rest of my life, I have broken my old lazy habit and have actually started to practice yoga at home. No excuses.

My little angel girl actually sleeps during the day, unlike her brother. So, while I let my son watch his alloted one-hour or so of video or wi time, I get to indulge in yoga.

The first day back it was completely defeating. Strength and flexibility feeling like they were at ground zero. By day three the flexibility returned, but the core strength was still a far dream away. My mood, however, was starting to improve. Hints of the old bright self are emerging.

I try to do what I can given my circumstances. Sometimes 20 minutes is all I can get. Today, I was blessed with an hour, but as soon as I finally drifted off into savasana, I heard "MOM! I am done! Come wipe my bum!" And I couldn't help but laugh.

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