Thankfully, I woke up on the right side of the bed this morning.
Having a clear wake-up time, 6:30, and someone to meet at 7am got me going. I went for a long walk with Michael and his dog, MacGreggor. With his little legs, Mr. French can’t keep up with us so the two of us go later.
We walked from my house to Overton Park and through the Old Growth Forest. There were noticeably fewer people walking than usual. Michael and I chatted and walked, with MacGreggor sniffing around, there were moments when I forgot that we are deliberately practicing physical distancing.
The morning walk shifted my energy level quickly, and lasted for the rest of the day. I put on my mask and gloves and visited Kroger. Jackie always shops for us because going to Kroger is one my list of least-favorite activities. A trip to Kroger at peak time normally leaves me anxious and exhausted at the same time. Today, however, I wanted to get out of the house.
I figure that it’s not going to get better or easier for a while so I should go to the grocery while it is still relatively easy and there are still items on the shelf. This was probably the one visit to Kroger I’ve actually enjoyed (although that is a weird word to describe it). There was still a good amount of produce, and my goal was to get things that would last us. Carrots, celery, turnips, onions, potatoes to make a big pot of vegetable soup.
And I got the kind of produce that will last for a while — oranges, limes, apples, sweet potatoes and butternut squash.
The store visit was a highlight of the day. Other things made me feel like I accomplished some things: cleaned the studio, investing time learning how to use Zoom so I can teach online starting next week.
Finally, I did my yoga practice. A variation on the Immunity Sequence.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Prasarita Padottanasana with head support
Viparita Dandasana on 2 chairs
Sarvangasana on chair + baddha konasana legs position in seat of chair.
Felt good, and brought my blood pressure down.
I should take pictures of these poses in case you don’t know the poses or the Sanskrit names. Maybe tomorrow.
All of this to say that today was SO much better than yesterday! There’s no need to say much about yesterday — it was a down day and I felt a sense of inertia. Glad for today so I am reminded that there will be bad days, but to be patient because the next one might be good. We will see what happens tomorrow.
Yesterday is what I call “Day 3” because it’s the 3rd day the studio has been closed due to Coronavirus.
With the studio closed, my days are mostly wide open. Yes, there is plenty to do — figuring out a plan to keep the studio going while we are avoiding physical contact, to learn online technology so I can teach virtually, and to do things that help me adjust to the changes.
I love the flexibility of my job (no pun intended). I teach according to a set schedule of classes and private lessons in the mornings and evenings. Then, in the middle of the day I’m free to work on other things like marketing, planning, bookkeeping, or just taking a walk or doing my own yoga practice, etc.
Teaching grounds me and centers me. I am at my best in that scenario. I’m strong, clear and confident when I am working with people. Without the established routine of showing up for scheduled classes, I am off kilter.
On Day 3 of my experience in coronavirus-land , I was not deliberately aiming to create my “schedule.” It made me nervous not to know what to do and when.
I spent some time on my yoga in the morning. Lunch. And then, I drove over to what I call “my spot” or “my place.”
Once-a-week at lunch I visit a thrift store that raises money for junior league projects like scholarships and nonprofit work.
Grace and Jackie manage the shop, and they have become like friends. Especially Jackie. Her booming personality hits me when I walk in the door. “Hello, hello, hello, Leah,” she greets me. She asks me how I’m doing. I have learned to say “Good!” no matter what is happening with me. I ask her the same question and she sings out “Alright, alright, alright!” Jackie models positivity, and I reciprocate.
It feels good to be there.
This week I went on Wednesday instead of my usual Tuesday. Pulling into the parking lot, I see the dark store and a “closed” sign in the window. It is disappointing.
But….then I had an “aha!” moment. My 10-minute weekly visits to the shop are part of my routine. I never planned it that way or put it on my calendar. The every-Tuesday thing evolved over time.
My way of establishing routine, scheduling, making lists and plans and to-do’s has to emerge on its own. With this panic over the pandemic, I’m tempted to enforce a routine on myself, to make calendar entries and lists. While that works great for some people. Not me. Not me. I need to settle down. It takes time and at first it looks disorganized — a bit like I’m meandering.
My friend, Amanda, told me that she is trying to “find a rhythm” in this new situation of Coronavirus distancing. I like her descriptor.
Right now the rhythm feels more like dissonant, improvised jazz. While it’s not my favorite genre, it is an example of how things can/will organize themselves if I settle, listen and pay attention.
(Will somebody remind me I said this? I’m sure I will forget this at the most inopportune time when I need it the most.)
Mahatma Gandhi was a great influence in Dr. King’s work. Here, he describes his discovery of Gandhi’s teachings:
“…One Sunday afternoon I traveled to Philadelphia to hear a sermon by Dr. Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University. He was there to preach for the Fellowship House of Philadelphia. Dr. Johnson had just returned from a trip to India, and to my great interest. He spoke of the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.
“His message was so profound and electrifying that I left the meeting and bought a half-dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works. Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously.
“As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance…the whole concept of “Satyagraha” (Satya is truth which equals love, agraha is force; “Satyagraha,” therefore, means truth-force or love force) was profoundly significant to me.
…it was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking for so many months. ”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
(quote presented by the King Center in commemoration of Gandhi’s birthday)
I called my mother to wish her Happy New Year!
I asked her about her resolutions for 2020. She said, “Oh, I’m done with that.” She seemed completely ok with it – her voice showed no irritation or resignation. She’s just let it go. She did not say it but I think it was her way of saying, “I am content.”
Contentment is one of the practices presented in yoga as a way of centering yourself in your life and quieting the chatter in your mind.
To be content. To practice contentment.
I am content. I am practicing contentment.
Grammatically speaking, the word is kind of passive. I can’t think of any time I’ve used “Content” or a derivative of it as an active verb.
Practicing contentment is only one of the many ways to center yourself that is outlined in the yoga sutras. There are also practices of non-violence, moderation, friendliness, contemplating positive people or objects that bring you to a peaceful yogic state. I think of the Yoga Sutras as a “how-to” book on living.
The sutras describe a state of yoga as, “Yoga is the ability to direct your mental activity.” BKS Iyengar translates it as, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of your mind.” (Sutra 1.2)
There is a sutra about the yoga postures. “The pose should be steady and comfortable.” Hmmmm….what is the meaning of “steady” and what is the meaning to be “comfortable” in a yoga pose? These words and practices are open to interpretation and translation. Sitting on the couch is often more “comfortable” than doing sun salutations or any poses. The definition of comfortable is subjective, as when you hear a coach tell you to improve your running time but not so hard you can’t carry on a conversation.
The sutras are the how-to guide. The practices are the how. Then, there is how to what?
How to still the churning of the mind? There is no pat answer for this. There is no “life hack.” There are only practices to try and see what happens. You see how one kind of practice affects you. You observe. You experiment.
This is the practice of yoga.
If your mind is not steady and clear, there are ways to make it so. There is no magic. Only practice.
And some days, you might feel content.
Our Iyengar system of yoga requires that teachers are always growing and venturing into new territory – refining our skills and keeping up with our own practice.
Transformation is a theme. Process and progress always beat out perfection in a daily practice.
You see this reflected in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the definition of practice: hard work, self-study and letting go of the fruits of our work (my loose translation of Sutra 2.1).
New students often express surprise at how teachers are able to teach 10 or 15 students, while guiding each student individually.
It’s because of our training! Every few months we attend Teacher Training weekends where we study all aspects of yoga. We study philosophy, anatomy, and ethics, and deepen our knowledge of the poses. We ask questions of our senior teachers and receive feedback so we continue to grow.
We practice teaching our peers. Some weekends we are fortunate to have student volunteers from that city. Teaching students we do not know helps us become even more skilled with new and more diverse students. We learn to guide people regardless of their experience-level or many other limitations that might come up.
As teachers, we support students as they discover their limitations in their practice. And we help them to transcend those limitations.
This is parinama (transformation).
Tedrah, Amanda and Leah are pictured here at some of our last teacher trainings. We worked on exploring advanced poses and refining the basics in even the simplest pose.