The way.

Isn’t it funny how well I did for a couple of months with my blogging? And then I unemployed myself, and suddenly found myself with a lot LESS time on my hands? So strange how that worked out. But it’s true. And I’m probably not alone in this discovery, I imagine it’s kind of how newly retired people feel. Instead of banging on at the office or the wherever for 8+ hours a day, where your routine is set and immovable (for the most part), a person with many more hours stretching out ahead of them might find that they want to pack so much more in. Because they can. And they do. And, so do I.

I suppose if you asked me how I filled my days and I told you, you would cock your head confused puppy-style, and marvel at how boring it is. There is some writing involved – I am blogging for a friend’s business and I am loving it. I belong to a couple of committees, so there are occasional meetings and action items (can’t get away from workplace speak, like, ever) to take care of. There is general household houseworky chores and things that now don’t have to be done JUST on the weekends. And there are occasional naps and mid-afternoon reading breaks with cups of tea and cookies.

For the first couple of weeks of my self-employment I felt pretty guilty if I had a quick nap or took some time out for reading. Btw, I am under strict orders from my husband to NOT call it unemployment, cos I’m actually doing some stuff currently and hope to do some more stuff eventually, and self-employment – or freelance – just sounds a lot less negative than unemployment, so that’s what I’m going with. For clarification.

But, now that I am more than a month into this situation, I have considerably less guilt. There will always be some guilt of course, it’s who and what I am, and I can’t change that. But I am working on it.

One of the things I have started is something that is long overdue. I have begun to incorporate yoga back into my routine and my life, and it has been amazing.

About 15 years ago, when our youngest son was just wee, I decided I needed something to do that didn’t necessarily revolve around children. I figured yoga would serve a couple of purposes: it would allow me to have some time to myself, and it would be a type of fitness that I could (probably) handle. This was long before my adventures into karate and kickboxing, and my early-30s was not a particularly “fit” time in my life. I took to yoga immediately, partly because it took place in a darkened room, it was quiet, and I was there on my own, no one needed me for anything.

But the main reason I enjoyed it so much and looked forward to the nights when I had class was due to the teacher. M was one of those people who, when you meet her, you feel as if you’ve known her your entire life. You want to pour your heart out to her, and you don’t even really know why. She was so welcoming, so quietly enthusiastic, and her classes were calm, her instruction delivered with encouragement, with grace and respect, and without judgement. It was no wonder I fell under the spell. The classes were perfect for me, it was exactly the kind of environment I needed at that time.

I stayed with those classes, weekly, for about seven years.  Over that time I started to see other yoga classes being advertised in my city. Hot yoga, yoga dance, extreme yoga. The ads and websites showed people in – what I thought at the time – impossible postures. “I could never do that”, I would think. “Those classes are not for people like me.” I thought of my own teacher’s website and her smiling and welcoming face. That was where I belonged. I was never tempted to stray.

Eventually I became a martial arts student, going to karate classes and falling in love with that. For a time I tried to do both, but when I found kickboxing, the sport that I wish I had discovered in my teens, those classes conflicted with my weekly yoga class. I tried alternating weeks – yoga then kickboxing – but the sport won out. I loved it- still love it – so much.

“Well, I’ll just do yoga at home” I told myself. I never did, not even once.

Martial arts took over, and many years later, I earned a black belt in karate. It’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, and a very long haul, with a lot of injuries and pain along the way. In fact, injuries have forced me out of karate entirely, and my kickboxing career might also be in jeopardy, although I am working hard to be able to get back to that. But it’s like my body has had enough. A sort of “Look, girl, I got you through to that black belt, but you and me, we’re done now. Haven’t you heard of Netflix? Sit down.”

I go to massage therapy on a regular basis and my therapist mentioned yoga to me, as a less boring way to do the stretching she recommends to me EVERY TIME I see her, and which I have promised to do, but never get around to. By the way, you can’t fake that with a massage therapist. They get wrist-deep in all your muscles and they KNOW what has been stretched and what hasn’t. Trust me on that.

We talked a bit about yoga, and I told her I had considered going back to my teacher, now working in a different location, but that the class times didn’t work for me. “Why don’t you try a home practice first?” she said. And I thought, yes, why don’t I? Because I’d tried that before and it didn’t work? Because I don’t have time? Well, we all know I currently have time…so?

So two weeks ago, I dug out my yoga mat, and once the house was quiet I rolled it out on my kitchen floor. I began the way I remembered M beginning her classes, and oh boy, it was awkward at first. I flopped about like a fish, breathing hard, not breathing when I should have been breathing, stiffly moving from one posture to the next… You get the picture. It was brutal. But I persevered. The next day was better, and the day after that was even better. Finally by about the fourth or fifth day, I found my way.

I started to hear M’s voice as I went through the flow. Be mindful of the breath; let the belly be soft; find your edge – anything more would be too much, anything less, not enough; let your body come back to stillness… I was giddy. How is it possible, that something I had not done in nearly 8 years had come back to me so quickly, and so perfectly? I could go all Wizard of Oz on you and tell you that I had it within me all along, I just had to realize it, and to be honest, it’s probably true.

I think when you experience something that clicks with you, that provides what you need at a certain time, it can stay with you. It’s maybe why we get nostalgic for a particular time in our life when we hear a song, why we remember those lyrics so fondly, why 80s nights are so popular among people of my generation. You loved it once, you still love it, it still speaks to you.

M’s voice is like that for me. Coming back to a yoga practice after so many years has been a bit like coming home. Nostalgic. Fondly remembering the way I felt waiting for class to begin, the soft music, the smell of the burning sage, the quiet way the students would greet each other as we came together on our mats.

And sure, it’s very different being in my kitchen for yoga, in the light of day, with a cat wandering in occasionally, and the fridge making that weird noise. But so far it’s working, and it’s been good to get back to being present, being in the moment. To not pressuring myself to push harder or longer, or even to be better than I was last time. M taught me that it’s all about what you can do right now, don’t compare yourself to anyone else, or even to yourself yesterday. Be in the moment, do what works for you today, let go of the idea of perfection, and of judging yourself too harshly. Basically? Be kind to yourself.

It’s a good message. And one I really needed to hear again.



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