Thursday, February 24, 2011

warriors, monkeys, and happy babies

I want to like yoga. I really do. But last night, after my first official yoga class (the yoga video in p90x doesn't count because no one can actually see - or critique - me doing the poses), I confirmed what I always thought I knew. I. Hate. Yoga.

mean really just hate it.

Maybe I'm not serene enough. Or mature enough. Or spiritually evolved enough. Or
bendy enough. Because I just cannot appreciate yoga. It seems like a very zen-like thing to do. And I envy those girls that just love yoga and blab on and on about all the great things it's done for their body, mind and soul. I mean, I really want to enjoy it. I want to be able to stand on one leg while holding the other out at a right angle. I want to be able touch my palms and heels to the floor at the same time. I want to be a yoga-er. But, quite frankly, I find it boring and slow and just plain awful. Which, I'm well aware of, is a very unpopular point of view to have these days.

But you know what? I just don't care. Life is too short to downward dog when you don't want to.

Perhaps I am too Type A. Too wound up. Too impatient. Too in need of something intense, gritty, sweaty, and
unpleasant to get my heart racing and send me into a stress-relieving trance. (Which, of course, is what you'll be able to find me doing once again when all of this yoga business is said and done. Beating up my body. And loving every miserable minute of it.)

But, in the meantime, let me walk you through last night...

We walk into the already jam-packed room a couple minutes late from filling out our new student forms. So if I was already self-conscious about what the heck I was doing, I'm even more so as I can feel people watching as I lay out my mat, grab my blocks and get situated. However, I managed to get all set up on my little mat (which reminds me of preschool nap time) and join in the class.

We're then told by the instructor to lay on the ground, supporting our spine and just pay attention to our breathing. Easy, right? Wrong. It's during this 10 minutes (do we really need 10 minutes for this?) that I not only realize that I cannot pay attention to my breathing, but also that when I actually start to for a couple seconds, my breathing is rather unable to be controlled. This, in turn, makes me anxious about why I can't control my breathing and causes my mind to wander about what else could be physically wrong with me.

At which point our instructor encouragingly reminds us to leave behind all the stress of the day and be here in the present. Well, now that you mention it oh, nimble one, I do have some stresses. Thanks for reminding me and causing my mind to wander to those for a while. On the plus side, though, this diverts my attention away from my brief lapse into hypochondria.

Editors note: Now, I definitely would consider yoga "exercise". And would even admit that certain poses are physically strenuous. But I just don't think anything where you lay on the ground, still, breathing for 10-15 minutes can be considered activity. Or a work out. Or purposeful for that matter.

But, nevertheless, that's what we do. And then, what feels like 15 long, boring and pointless minutes later, we're ready to move to the next thing.

Through-out the next 30-60 minutes, I'm guided to contort my body into one unnatural shape after another. All the while, straining my neck to see what the heck the instructor (or the girl next to me) is doing because I don’t know all the poses by name and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what 'prosperous pose' could quite possibly mean without a visual reference. However, when I look up all I can think of is 'how in the world is she doing that!?' I then, not be be defeated, muster my best attempt to mold my body into a form like hers only to have her gently push my back somewhere it doesn't want to go as she walks by and says 'Now relax and go deeper'. Fat chance, sister of nature.

The perfectly balanced and relaxed people around me must be looking at me with pity, wondering why my face is turning bright red as the blood rushes to my head. Actually, that's a lie. Because while I can't help but steal a glance each and every direction when I get the chance to check out how other people's poses look, no one else seems to notice or care. And it's pretty clear that, while I was busy stressing out during corpse pose (which, much like it's name would indicate, could easily be preformed by a dead person), they were 'clearing their mind' and 'releasing their worries' and 'letting go of the day'. Allowing them to be all zen and spiritually focused now. I, on the other hand, continue to feel the tension build in my neck and back.

But, still, I'm trying. I promise. Because I really, truly want to walk away liking this.

So there I am holding each and every shaky pose while our instructor, looking perfectly muscular, balanced, flexible and
skinny, continues to encourage our deeper decent into stillness and peacefulness. Which only continues to remind me that I'm not feeling any of the such. And through it all. The twisting. The bending. The Namaste-ing. The breathing. The only thing I can think about is not my 'center' or finding peace within, but rather, "what the heck am I doing here, and how can I make it stop?"

As we go into one of our last poses, the instructor gets all spiritual about being able to just feel our heartbeat and, again, I realize I cannot feel my heart beating. Yoga has, literally, bored me to death. So I stand there, hand over my heart, trying desperately to just feel my heartbeat. Seriously, not feeling a thing but confusion.

At the end, we're told again to lay on the ground and just be at peace.

Not a chance in hell this is happening for me.

And as we lay in the dark room while Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah plays in the background, I know I'm supposed to be feeling calm and relaxed. But I think by now you know how that's going for me. I, on the other hand, am running through the things I have to get done tonight. What I need to do to prep for Friday's big client meeting. How in the world I'm going to break it off with the newest nice guy in my life. Why in the world I'm not just feeling relaxed already. Basically, this exercise is going for me the exact opposite of what it should be.

After we leave the studio, Brooke looks at me with excitement and asks "Sooo, did you like it!?

I hated it.

But she was so happy about it and I wished I felt like that. I wished forced relaxation was something I could embrace. I wished I felt revived. I wish I was excited about our next class. I just wished I could be that way about it. So, I reassured her that I would, indeed, not be bailing on our 5-class Groupon.

Yes, yes, I agreed to give it 4 more classes. (What!? I'm not one to waste my money... except for when it comes to shots at 3am.) And I promise to give it my all. But, if in the end, I'm still as miserable as I was last night, I'm going to call it a day. You know, let sleeping downward dogs lie. (Or something like that.) And just accept that maybe yoga isn't for everyone.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

wordless wednesday #3

Snowmageddon. Snowcropolis. The Blizzard of 2011.

Chicago is, indeed, blanketed with nearly 2 feet of snow. And I'm forced to take back all my snide comments about weatherman always being wrong. Making too much of everything. Preparing us for the worse, when in all actuality we get a flurry. The scene from outside my living room window (and every news station around) is living up to all the hype.

win this time, Andy Avalos.

As I laid in bed last night hoping for a snow day today, I couldn't help but feel like a 3rd grader, desperately waiting to hear the news that school was out tomorrow. Remember just how great that was? Today a "snow day" means working from my kitchen table, coordinating conference calls from a variety of locations and the headaches that come with schedule delays. Back then it just meant one thing: snow ball fight!

And so, in honor of my 3rd grade self who's healthy imagination could turn a snowy backyard into any number of wild adventures, I bring you my favorite quote from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland:

There is no use trying, said Alice; one can't believe impossible things.

I dare say you haven't had much practice, said the Queen. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

because i said so

My mind is, well, heavy right now.

I often times find myself considering the actions of friends, co-workers, etc and wondering if they are at peace with their decisions. They seem to be so content with themselves. Do they ever wrestle with the consequences (whether positive or negative) of their actions like I do? Or are they more of the carpe diem type? Able to suck up even the worse situation as a classic case of better luck next time. You live you learn. It's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't. You win some, you lose some.
Have they accepted that mistakes are just a part of life?

When we were growing up there were so many things we couldn't do. Couldn't do because we weren't old enough. Because we weren't big enough. Because our parents didn't think it was best for us. Because it was a school night. Because 'I told you so'. They were so many rules in place to help shape us into the type of people our parents set out to raise.

But as we get older it becomes increasingly clear: the rules we set for ourselves are the only rules we know are real.

I yearn for clarity when I wrestle with my own actions, decisions, emotions and desires. I’m constantly caught between action and thought. There have been several times when I was faced with a situation and I had to decide: do I break my own rule? And if I do, will there be any consequences? I mean, certainly my parents won't be grounding me...

There are times when I was terrified of doing the "wrong" thing and regretting it. So, instead, I fought my emotions, what I wanted to do, and my "better judgment" won a battle that it probably should have lost. And for what? Just so that I didn't break my self-imposed rule? Just because I was worried what someone else might say or think? Times when I've stuck to my guns and found myself looking back and, on one hand, being proud of myself for abiding by my rules, but on the other hand filled with regret at the fact that maybe, just maybe, I thought too much and acted too little.

I'm not saying I regret all of the time. Or even most of the time. But every once in a while I regret. The things I haven't done likely could have only made things worse. But I'll never know for sure and I have a hard time accepting that on some days.

As I write this I realize that it’s certainly possible that I think too much and act too little. Sometimes I should just go with it. Do what I want to do at the time. Not burden myself with whether or not I'm going to regret it tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year.

I feel sort of relieved and excited about this confession of inner turmoil, doubt and shame. The next step is to live now, in real time, knowing that tomorrow isn't promised to anyone. Today's actions could bring about hardship, heartbreak and regret in the future. But they could also bring about something unexpectedly amazing. The thing is you never know. There's no way to. So you've got to live for what you know, and what you feel, now. And let tomorrow figure itself out.

After all, if I'm the one making the rules, aren't I also the one allowed to break them? And if I'm not going to do it, then who is?