By Jana Hill
Ice, snow, frost, and chill are a usual part of this season, and instead we’ve seen days that undulate between almost-winter, and a blustering and warming spring. Pollen mingles with March-like air in trace amounts, as if it is time for the crocuses to rise and sneezing to begin.
The lack of winter weather is almost unsettling, leaving a frenetic energy lingering that needs to crack open, burn off.
A remedy unveiled itself for me on one of those almost-winter days, where the cold outside bit at my skin, and sent me back inside, running shoes cast to dry by the pellet stove. Instead of a morning of running-style yoga, I decided on the more traditional yoga-route. I rolled out my small, black, rectangular home to work out the angst, and found my way into a series of poses.
Somewhere in the middle of it, things progressed to lengthier-than-usual visits, with some old friends, not necessarily in this order. Instead, they flowed like a connective energy string: The Warriors, Dancer, Triangle, Side Angle. Some of my nostalgic transitions came in, to invoke practices with my yoga instructors: I DownDogged to Side Plank. I spiderwalked to Lizard.
I often invoke when I practice, channeling my favorite yogic moments and people. Spiderwalks and Lizard have a specific friend, close and dear to me. She gifted me with the anatomy knowledge from her doctorate in archaeology, and a deep love for yoga and all-things-rigorous. When I had pain, she taught me how to heal it. When I invoke her practices, I recall that some people lift you up and heal you when you need more than what you can do on your own.
Flying my Warrior or moving into Side Plank from Downdog brings a male yogi’s healing voice to mind, with his Zenny sound-healing and his tougher-than-average practice that wrings me out, and lets me float for the day.
Yoga and running are where I go when my mind is spinning. When the mind spins, it loses its way; when the body moves, we can reign it in. I have found memories in poses, reflecting my simplest and most joyful times: when yoga was not about anything but itself. When I was in the room with people who were willing to find the practice and stare it down, owning the fact that we are only here now, and the most we can do is to live it out. Move through it with grace and strength.
Spinning mind frets over little things; brings big things into now when they are, in fact, in the past. It mourns losses too completely, too deeply, and with detail that gives that puzzle piece of life too much glare. And it is a puzzle. The parts are many, and only the fashioning of every single puzzle-piece communicates a life, in all its fullness and grace. It’s harder, I think, to stay out of spinning mind in this particular generation. Information is heavy and prolific. Problems and decisions are unending and many prioritize themselves all at once. We live in complicated and frenetic times. Our problems are real, and it seems like a placating statement to say we can move and breathe and it will all go away. Of course, it won’t.
But that is why we practice again.
On this day, spinning mind was dominating, chattering of things that might happen, things that never will, and things that are out of my grasp in spite of a manifesting heart that cannot stop beating so loudly at times. It always seems that action should predate result; that reason should always rule; that now is all that matters. But that can’t always be. I keep insisting it can, and I will continue, because that is who I am.
And that is why we practice the type of movement that we love: because it honors the exact energy we are burning, and the exact energy we need to access.
Years ago, my yoga instructor took our practice to the outdoor deck. There, I could see my to-do list of grass and dandelions. The open blue sky had no home for a drishti. I was apprehensive. She coaxed, and we complied. Midway through the practice, we found our way into Half Moon, and, nearly tipping over, she stood behind me as a support. By this stage, we had more than two years of yoga-practice together, so as she finessed my pose with adaptations to one hand, one shoulder, I could settle in. If she had been a yogi I had not yet bonded with, that touch would have tensed my muscles, and it would be “just” a pose. In “just” a pose, muscles engage and stretch, but no home is found. On this day, with this trust between us, my Ardha Chandrasana aligned to its purest state, and my heart felt as if it was open and full of light. I had slipped into an invisible bubble of peace and thoughtless internal silence. What my yoga instructor had imparted on this moment is sometimes described by my trainer: she calls this “wide brain.” It is physiological and real — a wealth from the ancient yogis.
The poses can be a home. That safe place that opens the heart and cleans it, moves the limbs and celebrates their vigor. Poses can pull on the puzzle-lines of life, and sometimes even make them feel straightened, ironed out, as if this puzzle is not so complicated after all. As we move through an era that is sometimes cold and sometimes springlike at the wrong time, we can find a place to let the mind process it. I find it on the mat, in the eyes of my rapidly changing kids, in the actions of my husband, in the thousands of steps that occur in a road-run.
We live in the bodies and minds we are given — and you cannot be anyone else. You must “dance with the date who brought you.” When you see the reflection of who you are and insist on action that won’t fit into that, you suffer. Don’t force yourself down a road you don’t belong. Don’t allow a life that douses love.
Do you. Your practice will show you how.
Jana Hill is a writer and editor since fourth-grade, a yogi since 1998, and a yoga instructor since 2012. More than all that, she is an Island Mom. If you can’t find her class, it’s because she is busy working in physical therapy these days.