Sunday, September 20, 2009

A new year

On Friday, my yoga instructor spent our whole class talking about sweetness. It's Rosh Hashana and it seems apples and honey are both literally and figuratively on the tip of nearly every tongue.

"Sweet," she said, guiding us into our first forward bend. "Sweet," I whispered to my tight hamstrings and cranky neck. "Slow," she said. "Like honey."

I bent over, thought of dripping honey, the slow undulation of syrup and the guy next to me popped down into a quick push-up before bobbing back up. I was working on languid and he was pumping away with the regularity of a piston. I breathed slowly and he exhaled loudly and did a couple more push-ups before lowering down into chaturanga dandasana.

I tried to channel sweet and slow, but eventually, I found myself going fast and loose. In the way that my chewing grows more rapid when I eat with my children, I found it almost impossible to slow down with this machine next to me. At one point, he and I rose to standing and spent a good two beats with our arms in the sky looking at the relaxed, folded bodies of our classmates.

I started to develop a very un-yoga-like hatred for this guy.

Of course he turned out to be my partner for stretches.

The first stretch had me on my belly, knees bent, my hands around my ankles. He was to sit on my feet and pull my shoulders back. If it's tricky to imagine, it's trickier by far to do comfortably when the grumpiest guy in the world is sitting on your feet and pulling your shoulders back as though he were reining a team of runaway horses.

Still the hatred.

And then we switched. And he was confused and I could see how tight his shoulders were. And he mumbled something about "not knowing why he was even there." And then, I put my hand between his shoulder blades and helped him slow down. Anusara yoga is about opening up your heart. A sweet sentiment if ever I've heard one. Sometimes I'm kind of grossed out by all the heart opening, but I get it. It's not easy for to say "soften your heart," without feeling a little silly, but when I actually do soften my heart, I feel better. My shoulders, tight little monsters that they are, relax. I feel calm. It's all good stuff. Perhaps because of that open heart, I suddenly liked this guy.

And, more importantly, I realized that his rhythm didn't have to be my rhythm. And that can apply to lots of things. Not just yoga. My kids can run around and scream their heads off, but it doesn't mean I have to. Just because there are folks who have found their "in" to writing at twenty or thirty does not mean I can't do it a hair past forty.

These are good things to remember at the new year.

The Jewish new year coincides with my children's return to school and is therefore a kind of double new year for me. I am back to work. Trying to practice every day. Sweetly some days, fast and furious others. But trying to set my own speed.

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