It’s been almost a year since my last post. I wasn’t thrilled with it, so I took a break. Time passes quickly and kids grow up fast, leaving me with little time to change fleeting thoughts into complete sentences. But today the words seem to be flowing freely from my brain to the keyboard.
About six weeks ago I joined a yoga studio. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but it took a while to find the right “fit.” I have never been described as “laid back.” I have chronically tight neck muscles and high blood pressure. My idea of de-stressing typically involves a running trail or a cardio kickboxing class. Years ago (at my doctor’s urging) I tried Hatha yoga. It was calm, peaceful, slow, and not at all me. More recently I gave Bikram yoga a shot, and with the room at a steamy 105 degrees it was…HOT. I have finally found my home at a local studio that is bursting with Toledo pride and offers classes that provide the relaxation (everyone says) I need, with the sweat factor I crave.
I am often rushing to the studio from work, or squeezing in a class between the activities and engagements that define the typical American family. It’s common during the first 5-10 minutes of class for the instructor to request that we “empty out our brains.” It’s a strange request, really. She describes it so literally; as if we could simply slice open our skulls and allow all of our thoughts and emotions to spill out on to the floor. “Empty out”…she goes on…”as if allowing space for what should really live there.” Ah. Now I get it.
A little insight into what I “empty out” in those few moments:
Kid fears. Every parent has them. Am I a helicopter parent and my children will not grow up to function in the real world? Or am I not involved enough? School ended one week ago and I am already concerned that they are “slipping” away from the common core grade level standards. Does Matthew get enough protein? Are they active enough? Too active? Who will their teachers be next fall? Work stress. I love my job. It’s my passion. It’s equally rewarding and demanding. I have some big goals which will require much of my time and attention over the next few years. Body stress. The inadequacies I see in the mirror. My frustrations with injury and running issues. The elusive “last five pounds.” This is where I get to set all of that free.
Over the course of six weeks I have become quite good at the practice of “emptying out.” In fact, I look forward to it. The beauty of emptying out is that you get to find the gems that are left behind. Buried beneath all the stressors are hidden treasures. When the thoughts and emotions of the day have been stripped away, I am left with my faith and my family and a love of self. In these moments I can visualize them bound to my heart like a tight-fitting sleeve. These things cannot be “emptied out.” They are attached.
It’s amazing what one can do when fear and worry are out of the picture. I feel strong and empowered. Capable and willing to accept the challenges set before me. If you are unfamiliar with yoga, class typically ends in savasana, or “corpse pose.” Flat out on your back, in a state of total relaxation. Last week, after several minutes in savasana, the instructor said….“Before you rise up and go back to the real world, I encourage you to leave anything that doesn’t serve you on your mat.”
What a powerful statement. And why not? Leave it on your mat! Why not stop letting fear and worry keep us from giving life the very best we have to offer? What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Yoga is not for everyone, I get that. I never really thought it was for me. I’m just encouraging you to take a few moments in your busy summer to push away the negative self-talk, worry and doubt. It doesn’t serve you. If anything, it’s making you sick. Leave it on your mat, or on the park trail, or your back porch, or your bike seat, or whatever place you feel comfortable going to set it free. And then spend some time feeling grateful for the treasures that remain in your heart.