Who’s been sitting in MY chair???

I love yoga.

I used to do it regularly back in the day, morning and evening. Nothing fancy or “pretzel”-y, but lots of stretches and things like downward-facing dog (often accompanied by an upward-facing cat), child’s pose and Proud Warrior. Lots of poses (including my beloved savasana) required getting down on the floor and up again, which was no big deal back in the day. I didn’t have to think twice about it–I just did it.

Then life happened.

Jobs that took so much out of me I could barely manage the absolute essentials of home life before collapsing into bed. (Aside: why do we so seldom include the things we love to do on the “absolute essentials” list?)

To add to the fun and games, a badly messed-up knee followed by a sciatic nerve periodically raising its ugly head made getting down on the yoga mat a very dicey proposition. The list goes on, but I’m sure you’ve got enough of your own things to deal with so I’ll spare you.

For some occult and self-destructive reason I decided if I couldn’t get down on the mat, I could no longer do yoga. So I rolled up my mat, blanket and strap and sadly stowed them away–but not too far away.

Like it’s been for so many of us, the last few years were insanely stressful. (And this year has definitely had its share of challenges.) In desperation I found myself reaching for an old spiritual practice that had fallen by the wayside–meditation. Trying to control my mind has always been like attempting to impose a vow of silence on Monkey Island, and the current barrage of disinformation and propaganda from the media hadn’t helped matters any. So this time instead of trying to clear my mind, when errant thoughts popped up I allowed them to drift through, then returned my attention to my breathing. And it worked! (Humbling admission: it was also the way I should’ve been doing it all along, but better late than never.)

Mickey Wiz and his peeps, keeping my seat warm.

I still missed yoga, though. There’s something about the combination of body/mind/spirit yoga offers that simply couldn’t be duplicated–at least for me. I still wasn’t in any shape for getting down on the mat, but one day I decided to unroll it and do a few standing poses. Progress! Then I came across some videos showing chair yoga which would allow me to do more poses without aggravating my problem areas. We got me set up with a sturdy folding chair and I started my own chair yoga practice, which I absolutely loved.

The bad news: One day last week I was pouring a potful of boiling pasta water into a colander and my hand slipped. Ended up with 2nd degree burns across the inside of my left wrist. (Don’t worry, no pictures!) Because even chair yoga involves hand and arm movements, along with the fact that I was really hurting, I didn’t practice yoga for several days. And I really, really missed it.

The good news: I’m starting back up this afternoon!

I’ve often said it’s the little victories that keep us sane, but after re-reading this post I’m beginning to see that maybe this victory really isn’t such a little one after all….

Functional Serenity

Captain Serenity, my meditation buddy

I love yoga.

Nothing fancy, mind you.  I’m in no danger of achieving king pigeon pose; even bridge pose is well beyond my humble capabilities.

What I can do are simple stretches that loosen up the old bones and alleviate the discomfort-du-jour.  I can also sit in a mercifully-modified lotus position, focusing on my old buddy Captain Serenity until my racing thoughts get bored and go off to find better things to do.

My all-time favorite yoga pose has got to be savasana,  better known by the deceptively ominous name of corpse pose, where the body and mind relax completely.  I find myself feeling peaceful, unhurried, unworried, serene.

Until I’m back in the World Out There.

In less time than it takes to say “namaste”,  petty irritants multiply like loaves and fishes.  I find myself mentally casting aspersions on the parentage and IQ level of fellow drivers while stressing about what fresh hell awaits me at work and agonizing over the 5,234,678 things I (think I) need to do when I get home.  Next thing I know I’m back on that souped-up hamster wheel, wondering what happened to all that wonderful serenity I had just the night before.

News-flash-to-self:  I’ve still got it.

It’s just gone into functional mode.

Which is a good thing, because most workplaces take a dim view of unfurled yoga mats during business hours, and closed-eyes meditation is not conducive to safety in heavy traffic.

But Life Out There can be stressful and chaotic, and it’s easy to get swept away.

So how do I tap into this functional serenity?

Take a long, deep breath.  Or two, or twelve.  When I’m rushing around like a lunatic, I breathe like a lunatic–one step away from hyperventilation.  This in turn kicks my body and mind into totally unnecessary “fight or flight” mode, and I’m off to the races.  If I stop, breathe, and allow myself to center, I can see things more realistically and am better able to cope.

Step back–or better still, away–from the scene of the crime.  It doesn’t have to be for long.  A walk down the hall and back.  A quick visit to a nearby coworker. Even a trip to the water fountain. Sometimes just a minute or two away from my cluttered desk and ever-blossoming email inbox  helps break the spell of Overwhelm.

Say or do something nice for somebody else.  This is a biggie, and it has never failed me.  Besides generating positive energy for everyone concerned, it reminds me not to let the chaos of daily life overshadow the importance of the human connection.  (Hey, we’re all in this together, right?)

Give myself permission to feel good.  “I allow myself to feel peaceful and serene through whatever comes my way today.”  “I allow myself to detach emotionally from (name that situation).”  “I allow myself to feel confident.”  Laugh if  you must, but I’ve found this to be surprisingly effective.  I may have to repeat it more than a few times, but eventually it kicks in.

And last, but definitely not least:

Be grateful. Yeah, you knew that one was coming, didn’t you!  🙂 But it really does work.  Tallying up the many good things in my life is a great little equalizer when I’m feeling beleaguered.