The start of my yoga training is rapidly approaching and my required reading textbooks have begun to arrive. I am feeling equally exhilarated and somewhat terrified. I eagerly open the covers and start reading little gems of knowledge-or see a picture of a renowned yogi displaying a difficult yoga pose absolutely perfectly. My brain is firing on all cylinders taking in all of the new info… and also things I have learned years ago that are being presented in a different light. Some of the words written in these amazing books are thousands of years old. It is so illuminating to read the journeys of people who experienced the same emotions and enlightenment as I have on their own yogic path. When I take classes, I know that I am at a very advanced level. I have been practicing for many years, I have invested time and emotion into exploring the deeper meaning behind the physical movements. But in the grand picture of all the yogis in history-I am really a teenager. Maybe a devoted college student. I love that we can connect to the journeys of those who came before us and realize we really haven’t changed that much over thousands of years. We may have computers and cell phones, hybrid cars and airplanes, fast food and even simple electricity, but our search for happiness, our doubts and faults, our questions and answers are remarkably the same. To me, it just reinforces the truth that whatever path you choose to find your own happiness, looking to our elders and respecting the past will always connect you to our shared humanity.
Have you ever watched a highly trained athlete in a major competition? Truly an inspirational sight to behold. Zero body fat, toned sculpted muscles, laser beam focus and energy to spare. But it is simply a wonderful moment in time. High level athletes cannot possibly keep this level of perfection every day of their lives. It is the result of a well planned “peak”. You cannot run a full marathon every day. You’d be exhausted and probably injure yourself. Worst of all you’d probably start hating marathons. You would have drummed out all your enthusiasm too. You’d get up in the morning and think….oh NO…I have to run another marathon today. ugh….
However, we live our lives like we’re in the olympics everyday. We expect our bodies to be perfect all the time. We never allow for a softening…of mind or muscle. We chastise ourselves for an extra cookie or if we sleep in later and miss the trip to the gym. We start to blame and punish ourselves for perceived laziness. What is it about our culture that doesn’t allow for the ebb and flow of life? Sometimes we have a little less energy than the day before. We are taught to plow through and push harder instead of listening to ourselves. There is no time to recharge. Eastern cultures and yoga sages teach that sometimes rest and stillness are needed more than power and charge. The wisest learn to ride the waves. That way when the olympics of life are approaching, you can really bring it.
I was walking in Central park today and I began to marvel at the huge, beautiful, old trees. They are always there. Steady, dependable and gorgeous. But I have rarely connected with more than just the beauty of a big, old tree. Trees this size are older than me. By many years. They have survived terrible storms, insect infestations, high winds and harsh winters. They have witnessed human triumphs, failures and joys. They bear scars from fire or disease. Some have fallen. But those that remain are survivors. They have the wisdom of the years and aren’t the young, lush perfect specimens they once were…..but they are glorious reminders of life lived. Today, as I gazed up at the hundreds of years before me…I felt reeeeeaaaaallllyy small. I felt a connection to something greater than myself. Big old trees are beautiful because they have AGE. Young trees although beautiful and lush, don’t compare.
Now how come we can’t apply this to our own aging process? Celebrate the scars and the triumphs and the knowledge gained after living a full life?
No reason why we can’t. I’m sticking with the trees.
Make the mind
A single point.
I took a yoga class recently and after sitting cross legged for the first 30 seconds of class meditation I tried to settle into a few minutes of quiet and let my mind go. As soon as I did, my mind began to churn. Things I had to do raced past me…lists of things to accomplish….then even deeper: fears, worries and career, children, money, job…… It was like a little gremlin had crawled in my ear and was running around pulling all the things off the shelves in my mind. I tried to clear the slate….a nice cleansing breath in and out….Phew….trying again. As soon as I relaxed…the gremlin was back. I started to get angry….I am supposed to be meditating!!!! I am a beacon of white light dammit! The harder I tried-the further away the quiet place I was seeking went. I thought- well…..I guess I’m not going to meditate today. Fine, I’ll just sit here and hope we start moving soon. Hmmmmm. The gremlin was gone. I had to let go of my expectations and just be in the moment. I wasn’t in a deep meditative state with white light and angels or anything……but my mind was clear and I again had a focused center. The teacher spoke from the front of the room…set an intention for class today. I chose release. It was a great class.
I took this pic when I was working on a show out of town. It was on a bulletin board in a quiet little studio that I found to warm up in before my entrance. I remember seeing it and thinking..wow! Never heard it put like that before. As a dancer, I know that the thousands of hours at the barre in ballet, or the classes in a studio, or the weeks of rehearsal before a show opens- are part of the journey to seek perfection. But I never REALLY thought about how each moment you spend on learning or trying something new…you are adding to your knowledge and mastery of that thing. It made me think…What do I spend my time on? If you spend time on negativity and pain, you will become an expert at that. If you spend time on growth and happiness, you will master that. In Yoga we are taught to say I “practice” yoga. Because ultimately-there will always be something to work on-something to learn. I like that idea. It mirrors the human condition…perfectly flawed. And excellence does become a habit because it becomes your own normal. Cool!
Well here I am about to embark on a long journey forward into unknown territory.
Writing this blog is the first step! The other is – I have decided to take a month off from my performing career and focus on my yoga teacher certification and most importantly do something other than perform. I have been a Broadway performer and actress for 16 years now (whoa-how did that happen?) and my entire adult life has always revolved around 8 shows a week….auditions….rejection and triumph. Wonderful….but…..needing more. Yoga has been a constant love/escape for me. First I started taking yoga classes to do something other than dance–which I have done since I was 2…..what do you really do when you are 2 and dancing you ask? Butterfly……..fairy princess…..? But point being -for me I have always had focus and a goal. I have practiced yoga for 10 years now and I still learn something about yoga and myself every time I do a downward dog. Well, I continue to set new goals for myself as a performer–so when the opportunity arose for me to truly focus on yoga…..I jumped at the chance. Leapt is more like it—leaping into the big, dark void of the unknown and the mysterious, ancient yoga sutras and becoming a gently focused person……..should be interesting. I will share my experience here of becoming a yogini, a (hopefully) great teacher and most of all my daily explorations that might help someone find their path too. Should be fun….let’s see what happens!