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Using Yoga

Everything is changing. But everything is always changing. In several different places in my life, there is movement and change. I know my instinct in the past would be to get quiet and hibernate. But this time I feel the need to move with it.

As the focus of my days shifts to my career, it started to shift away from my practice. But it’s getting to be pretty clear that I can’t replace yoga with work. They just occupy two completely different facets of life. I still need yoga. Maybe even more now.

My almost two-decades-long practice (oh, no. not really) is still serving me. It’s reminding me to breathe, it’s nudging me to get back on the mat. It’s telling me that even though “yoga” might not be my focus, that this is the time to truly integrate yoga into my life. This is where all the lessons come into play.

I need to USE yoga to stay sane, to keep moving, and to breathe.

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Puppy love

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This January marks six years since this wily beast came into my life.

She’s curled up in a ball at my feet as I write this and I just love the little bugger. I know everyone says their dog is awesome, but I’m going to go ahead and insist that she’s really is the best. I mean, look at that face.

Her foster dog family named her “Lady Mellow,” and she truly is one chill pup. Originally I’d wanted to small dog, a carry-on. But even though I can’t take her on the subway, I love all 50 lbs of her every day. Here are some of my favorite “Daily Kaylee” shots from the last year.

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Perfectly Imperfect

20 minutes is better than nothing

This morning I lay in bed musing about the day, knowing that the longer I stayed under the covers, the less likely I was to roll out the mat. So I got up and looked at my yoga space – filled with mail that needed to be opened, a dog leash begging to be used, and a suitcase that lay stuffed and ready for unpacking.

It was tempting. First I’ll clean off the counter, put away all this stuff so I can set my drishti on a clear, uncluttered space. I could just take care of the mail rather than let it sit. If I’m moving the suitcase, I may as well unpack and throw a load of laundry in before I start. Then the dog is up and looking my way, ready for a walk.

That’s how it goes some mornings. The mat stays rolled up in the corner while a bunch of other things on the list get done. I want to make things as close to ideal as I can in order to practice. I want to clear the space, so I can clear my mind. I want a home studio that looks like the ones in the magazine. But at what cost? It’s not helping me to skip my practice until it can look perfect.

This morning I set up my mat amidst the chaos. The room was a mess. My body ached and my waistline spoke of too much Christmas pie. My nose was stuffed up and I couldn’t pranayam my way out of a paper bag, but I did it. I got down in chaturanga with elbows as close to 90-degrees as I can get them. My trikonasana was crooked, but existent. And it was good.

Collecting Wisdom

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I do this thing. When I’m feeling unsatisfied, or insecure, I start collecting. I Pin beautiful images, and try to figure out how to make my life mirror them. I read memoirs and try to imagine my life as theirs. I look outside of myself for the missing piece. As if there is some room I can sit in that will make it all clear, or a tiny slice of wisdom outside of myself that is going to make the difference.

I know that’s not true. And still, I collect. I used to beat myself up about this but recently I took a look at one of my collections – a list of inspiring women – and I learned something.

What all these women seem to have in common is that they aren’t copying someone else. They’ve forged their own paths, ones that might look very different from what they thought – or what anyone else thought for that matter.

This is awesome and frustrating. Because there is part of me that is still looking for an instruction book on life: “The 5 Steps to Being Happy,” “Here’s How to Be Radiantly Yourself.” But the longer I go at this, the more I realize, there isn’t a model to follow. I can look at these women and be inspired by their stories, but in the end, they are not my stories. I can’t do what they did. I have to come up with this life on my own.

That said, here are some women I admire for their vision, commitment and pluck, honesty, and individuality

Erin Loechner of Design For Mankind

Andrea Scher of Superhero Life

Katie O’Connell of Dragon Fly Yoga Barn (Not a website, a real-life place)

Shauna Ahern of Gluten Free Girl

This & That: Holding Back

Okay. This is actually a more difficult post to write than I thought it would be. It’s about ego, and holding back in your practice to heal.

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I did something to my hip. Or sacroilliac joint, or low back. Something is a little off. I’ve been gentle. I have heating pads. I want to do yoga. I want my yoga to be amazing. I want it to feel like my joints are lubricated by angel spit.

But they aren’t.

You guys know I’m not a doctor – so when it comes to injuries, you have to check with one of them. I’m just here to tell you my personal experience.

I’m stiff, and it’s making me cranky. But I know that I have to hold back. I want to push, and pushing won’t heal my back. Soft, gentle exploration of joint movement is the way to go here.

So now to the This & That: When you feel stiff, or are recovering like this, modify your asanas. Go 70%, or 50%. Go even a third of the way there, and explore. I’m working on getting my ego out of the way and letting compassion for my body to take over.

In my case that might mean supine pigeon, this number four looking variation up top, instead of the eka pada raja kapotasana I’m used to.

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Mmm. Doesn’t that look glorious though? It’s like looking at cake. I want it, but it’s just not good for me right now.

Finally, I thought I’d share this piece of wisdom from Yoga Journal. It’s basically exactly what I’m trying to say:

It can be very frustrating to hold back in class when you want to do all of the poses, but it is essential that you respect your body’s limits.

Yes, YJ, it is very frustrating. So here I am. Having to get my ego out of the way and do only as much as what’s good for healing my body. I’ll let you know how it goes.

First image found here. Second image here.

Finding Your Center, Behind Bars

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This week The New York Times published an article about the increase of yoga in prisons, citing it as a low cost way to help inmates cope with the stresses of prison life and an opportunity for them to reflect on their crimes.

The Prison Yoga Project talks about the deep healing they’ve witnessed.

Thanks to yoga, prisoners begin to reconnect more deeply with themselves and others. Where love is so sorely lacking, the transformation is profound.

That last line really got to me. I do not even pretend to be able to imagine what it’s like. But I do know that yoga has brought me love when I’ve felt it lacking in myself. And I am moved to see it somewhere where love is so sorely lacking.

This image was taken from the NYT slideshow found here.

Not Skipping to The End

Remember the wedding scene in Princess Bride? There’s a commotion outside, and it’s clear things are not going as planned. Knowing this, Humperdink shouts at the priest, “Skip to the end!”

Well, when things aren’t going my way, I have a tendency to want to “skip to the end” too. Like a little kid with my hands over my eyes, I want to ignore the scary part and have someone tell me when it’s safe to come out again.

I noticed this the other day when I was telling someone a story and she stopped me and said, “Wait. What happened in the middle there?” I skipped over the part of the story that upset me without even realizing it. That’s how much I didn’t want to deal with it!

Ugh. So I have no idea, to be honest, how to change this. Except to practice not doing it. To stop and notice when I’m skipping over the hard part, and breathe. And just notice it. That’s it. Notice it. And you know what? It’s hard. At least it is for me. Sometimes after the deep breath and the noticing, I get choked up. There’s something else underneath. And other times, nothing. The whatever it is, is deeper, and I can’t always find it. But I’m looking. The goal is not skipping to the end.