Friday, October 14, 2011

Music to my mind and muscles

Months ago my friend Ainslie recommended yoga as a therapy to help both my mind and body recover.  I've never done yoga, and indeed I thought I would hate yoga because I am lanky and inflexible with relatively bad knees.  But I'm a new person now, highly divergent from who I was before cancer.  And as the weather turns, I'd like a mechanism to get out of the house and exercise.  Maybe I'd like to give yoga a try, once a week for five weeks?    

I found a yoga studio just downtown, within walking distance from our house.  It is a private business with only one instructor.  It thought that this would be a promising way to get into yoga, because if I'm going to hate yoga I don't want it to be because of a poor-quality experience.  I'd rather give myself a fair chance to like yoga by taking it from someone who Lives yoga.  And let me tell you, the instructor seems to Live yoga.  She is fantastic!

I've only attended one session thus far, but preliminarily I love yoga.  In just one session something under my scar popped and I have slightly increased range of motion.  It was wonderful to have some direction from the instructor in terms of pushing my body; I think I am a bit of physical coward when I am stretching by myself at home.  The direction revealed that I am not very strong in the right places, so it will be awhile before I get the hang of the breathing and the posing.  I definitely did a lot of quaking the first time.  I am greatly looking forward to getting strong in the right places!  And maybe I will gain back the inch of height that I lost as a result of two pregnancies.  Ainslie said that she gained an inch in height after only a few weeks of yoga.  I don't really need to gain an inch like Ainslie did (she is adorably petite), but if a girl's gonna be tall she may as well be 5'11" rather than 5'10".  At 5'11" I'll make better use of these enormous feet (aka stabilizers).

In addition to the physical aspect, yoga is a mental exercise in releasing stress and anxiety.  I tend not to carry much of either around with me, but I found that I enjoyed the mental yoga almost as much as the physical yoga.  It was relaxing.  More importantly, it was wonderful to have permission to think about nothing for a whole hour.  Rarely do I give myself permission to think about nothing:  if it's not the kids it's the science, if it's not the science it's the chores, if it's not the chores it's the blog, and so on.  Turns out that I enjoy thinking about nothing.

My yoga instructor also sprinkles the nothingness with pleasant nuggets of thoughts.  I scurried to write this particular thought down as soon as yoga was over:

"...letting go of the illusion or dream that you're perfect, and settling into your natural state, which is imperfection..."

I am certain that this comment came from the universe, ensuring me that I was in the right place.  I have been thinking a lot about the natural state of imperfection lately, primarily in the context of physical beauty.  When I had two breasts I did not think that suffered the illusion that I was perfect, but the fair bit of mental energy I have spent settling into my new natural state of having one breast indicates otherwise.  Perhaps I have a leg up on my fellow yoga-ers because I am actively engaged with settling into my imperfection.  And perhaps yoga will help me to settle more comfortably.          


  1. Yay, I'm so happy you loved your first session! And isn't R. awesome??? She was such a calming influence throughout my pregnancy and I truly credit her prenatal yoga class for putting me into the right frame of mind to plan for a med-free birth. I really miss have yoga class with her and I'm hoping she'll offer a baby and mom class like she said she might.

    I hope you continue to enjoy the class and the growth process, both mental and physical, that comes with practiving yoga. I'm trying to work a daily practice into my routine at home, even if it's just 5 minutes of sitting on a map and giving my mind permission to think about nothing. Like you said, it's very freeing.

    Namaste indeed.


  2. I heard things pop in yoga, but it's rarely a good thing!

    Seriously, I am glad you found a yoga that is right for you. I tried the meditate-saline-nasal rinse yoga in Iowa City but found I was distracting myself with thinking. Now, I have yoga that is so hard and sweaty, it's not physically possible to think of anything else.

    You inspire me with your willingness and ability to try new things.

    The bad-ass in me honors the bad-ass in you!

  3. Yoga continues to be awesome. Namaste indeed.

  4. Heather! So glad you like yoga! I started in January and try to go 1-2 times a week. I think it is really great for me mentally and physically. Enjoy!

  5. Okay, Emily, I can't believe you do all of that kid-rearing and trailrunning, and then find time for yoga on top of that. I'm starting to understand the "powerhouse" part of your name.

  6. Well, my secret is that I've decreased my work schedule to 28 hours a week! :) that has made a huge difference in my quality of life.

  7. Oh yeah, the "Powerhouse" actually comes from my rock-n-roll days when I was a punk drummer in the 90's. :)

  8. R. is really great and such a sweet and earnest person. I love going to classes at her studio. Best of luck!