It’s been raining ever since I arrived in Los Angeles. Pouring, actually. The weather reminds me of the 1997-1998 El Nino. It’s all good though. I’m here at a university working on a book project and the rain is keeping me indoors where I’m squirreled away in the library.
The last time I was out here to “work” I got a wee bit distracted and spent my days catching up with friends, visiting my old haunts, eating at my favorite places, etc. This time I’m being good.
“I picture you in a dark, dusty room all alone as you sort through archives,” my husband said to me on the phone the other day. Well, sort-of. I take the documents out of the dark, dusty room to a bigger, lighter conference room. And that’s pretty much where I’ve been the whole time – the exact same spot I was ten years ago as a grad student, typing notes on my laptop (do you ever have the feeling that you’re making no progress in life whatsoever? Anyhoo…)
Last Friday the weather channel called for rain Saturday and Sunday, so I planned to push through the weekend and continue working. But when I woke up Saturday morning, I felt sunlight on my face. I jumped up and ran to the window . . . sure enough it was a bright, shiny morning. The Pacific Ocean sparkled. I had to enjoy the sun while it lasted.
I was starving, so I gobbled down a veggie sandwich (tomato, California avocado, cucumber and sprouts on toasted whole wheat). Then I dashed to the bike path, buckled my rollerblades and – Zoom! – I was off. I bladed all the way to the end of the path, turned around and bladed back, and then turned around once again. I was like the Energizer Bunny . . . I kept going and going and going (‘cept for the part where I rounded a curve way too fast and hit an unexpected pile of sand).
It was the best. The veggie sandwich was certainly a tasty beginning to the day. But I tell ya, its sunshine that feeds my soul.
Lately, I’ve been giving them a lot of thought.
First, my yoga teacher is always including toes in her instructions. Lift them off the ground (one at a time). Spread them. Plant them back on your mat (one at a time). It takes awhile to learn to control them – they’re so often ignored. Second, I was reading a book about a woman who had a stroke and was paralyzed on her left side, including all her toes. She was explaining the rehabilitation process and talking about the fact that she realized – once she could no longer use them – how important toes are for balance and for pushing off of when walking. Third, I just so happened to be reading the book passage while I was getting a pedicure (a gift from my husband).
So toes were on my mind.
For most of my life I didn’t pay attention to them. And when I got older I would shove them into cold, hard pointy shoes. In turn, that led to foot cramps. The cramps would attack in the middle of the night and hurt so bad I’d cry. But when I started practicing yoga, I noticed my foot cramps disappeared. I decided to give my feet the love they deserved. In addition to yoga, I began wearing comfortable shoes. And from time to time, I’d get a pedicure. I stopped painting my nails awhile ago (to avoid the harsh chemicals), but today I made a special exception.
I picked a color – Dutch Tulips – in honor of spring.
When they were red and shiny, I wiggled them and smiled. Thankful for my toes.
The other day, I was in a “blah” mood due to my seasonal affective disorder (self-diagnosed). To snap out of it, I came up with a list of ten activities that are fun. Not just enjoyable, but playful and lively. The kind of activities that make me happy, happy, happy.
10 Fun Activities
1. Rollerblading (I can’t help but grin like a fool whem I blade – I absolutely love it more than just about anything)
2. Dinner out with my husband
4. Downhill Skiing
5. Watching a good romantic comedy
7. Jumping on a trampoline
8. Throwing a Frisbee with my dog (she can leap in the air and catch it)
9. Riding rapids in a river
10. Snorkeling around coral reefs
Reviewing my list, it dawned on my how many were linked to physical activity – things that get my blood flowing. (Yoga isn’t on there because while I do enjoy it – love it, actually – I think of it as more of a calming practice.) I don’t know where the trampoline came from – that one just popped into my head. Well, I’m so getting a mini tramp for my bedroom. When it’s cold and windy and rainy I’ll get some physical exercise and make myself laugh while I’m at it.
Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.
We are in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) and the teacher is walking us through the pose nice and slow. She has us begin in Tadasana (Mountain pose) and then tells us to touch our fingertips together in front of our chest. As we jump our legs apart, our arms open up too (so they are parallel to the ground).
Next, the real instruction begins. She focuses on our feet, making sure they are spaced far enough apart and turned in the proper direction. She reminds us that our back heel should be aligned with our front heel.
She pauses as we breathe.
She moves onto our legs. She makes sure that our right knee is bent so that it’s directly over the right ankle. We need to press our thigh back so we can see our second toe. She keeps us focused on our lower body, giving us directions on our tailbone, butt, and – again – our thighs. She mentions that second toe again.
You can practically hear the thoughts of every student in the studio: My arms are tired. My arms are so tired! When will this pose be over so we can put our arms down? Are anyone else’s arms tired? Or am I just a wimp? How much longer do we have to hold our arms up?
Finally, the teacher says, “I know your arms are tired.”
Her acknowledgement is a relief even though she encourages us to keep those arms lifted. “Stretch them out even further, reeeaaaaching for the walls,” she says.
She moves onto our shoulder blades – are they scrunched up by our neck? Release them.
Lengthen our torsos.
Broaden our chests.
She knows exactly what we’re doing – allowing our minds to be consumed with thoughts about our arms.
“Your brain starts to panic first,” she says. “Your body is strong and your arms can handle this.”
That’s the extra motivation we need for the last few breaths until she finally has us step our feet back together and place our hands on our hips.
I’m working out in LA for a couple weeks – my old hometown – and it’s great to be back in my favorite teacher’s class. Now that I’m here, I remember she was always big on arms.