I feel like a dog person who became a cat person . . . a skier who became a snowboarder . . . an evening person who became a morning person . . . because I drink tea now. Me. The coffee girl. Drinks tea. And I like it.
So many colors. Tons of flavors. I can drink it at night and it won’t keep me up until 3am.
I have an “emergency kit” in my purse. It contains essentials like a hair band, dental floss, an extra pair of contact lenses, and quarters. Now it also holds a tea bag. I added it after going to a restaurant the other day where they had three tea choices: icky, yucky, or gross. It reminded me of the days when I used to be a caffeine addict yet was stuck in a meeting where the only coffee option was a stale, burnt cup of sludge.
Anyway, so I now keep a tea bag tucked away for such predicaments. That’s me. The tea girl.
I was “birthed” into the world of yoga through the Iyengar style where precision and alignment are emphasized. My teacher would adjust our poses starting from our pinky toe (literally – she’d have us lift it up and try to spread it away from our other toes) all the way to the tops of our heads (which, she would tell us, should be lifting toward the ceiling, as if a string was attached to our scalp and someone was pulling).
I’m one of those follow the rules, read the directions, life is in the details type of girls, so I ate Iyengar yoga up. The fact that my hamstrings are tight, my shoulders are scrunched, and my hips are narrow make Iyengar a fitting practice because I benefit so greatly from the blocks and straps and blankets that are generously encouraged in that style of practice to help with proper positioning.
From time to time I’ve experimented with other yoga styles – this article describes various kinds – and recently I found myself in a session where the teacher was leading a flow with pretty much no regard to form whatsoever.
At first I was distraught.
“Beautiful!” the yoga teacher said when I moved into Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II).
“Oh, yeah, right,” I thought to myself.
In an Iyengar class, the instructor is always adjusting my Warrior II pose. I’m like a toy where you push one section in and another section pops out. If she moves my left thigh, my right knee tweaks to a different place. If she tilts my pelvis, my arms plummet. If she tells me where to fix my gaze – whoops – there goes my thigh again.
Anyway, I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t want to spend the entire practice mentally upset that this yoga teacher wasn’t going to focus on form. Other than calling out the pose, she was giving no instructions, and deep inside I knew that was okay. Because yoga really isn’t about form. Not at its core. It’s about being in a present state of mind. Finding a place where I’m not worrying about the future or obsessing over the past, even if those thoughts relate to yoga itself. As I continued the flow, I let go of the details and the precision and simply enjoyed the movement.
I felt warm and flexible and free.
I glanced at a weather map of the United States today and it’s orange, darker orange, and red all over. In other words, it’s hot.
I tend to have a high tolerance for 90 degree weather, so I revel in it, but my yoga teacher says the heat makes a lot of people irritable.
She thought we should focus on cooling poses in class today.
We worked on variations of Downward Facing Dog – using a chair, then a wall, then the regular way – and then spent some time in Child’s Pose, Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend*).
“Forward bend poses are great for settling you down when you’re feeling agitated,” the teacher said. “You may sweat while you’re in the pose, but they’re calming on the nervous system.”
I must say, it is amazing how as the class continued I felt myself grow into silence as I streeeeeetched out, my heart resting peacefully inside.
So if you find yourself snapping at people (including yourself) or not tolerating the traffic or noticing that things that you usually don’t mind are bugging you, take heart. It might simply be the heat. Try breathing a few times . . . and don’t forget to bend.
*In Seated Forward Bend, I have to sit on two blankets and lasso a strap around the balls of my feet to hang onto and pull myself forward because I can’t reach my arms to my toes. The teacher looks just like the lady in this picture when she’s in the pose, but she mentioned that 18 years ago she had to use blankets and straps too. So. By my calculations I should be able to do Seated Forward Bend without props in 15 years. I wasn’t discouraged by this. I was excited. The human body is amazing. Anyway, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to think about those things in yoga class, but sometimes I can’t help it!
Here’s a little secret: I practiced yoga for 12 months before I finally washed my mat . . . okay, 18 months . . . um, maybe more like 24. Yep, I’m pretty sure it was over two years before I grabbed a washcloth and filled a bucket with warm soapy water. For the record, my mat wasn’t too dirty. I tend to prefer the Iyengar approach to yoga over styles that involve a heated rooms or a lot of fast movement, so I’m usually not dripping sweat during classes. But despite that, and regardless of how often I’d wash my feet before sessions, I began to notice soiled circles where my heels pressed into the mat. I should wash this, I would think to myself during Downward Facing Dog. Yep that’s definitely dirt, I’d say to myself as I gazed at grime during Plank. After class I would roll up my mat, take it home, and promptly forget my pledge. Finally one day I plunged my hand into a bucket and went to work. It’s very easy. Following these directions, I unrolled my mat on a clean tile surface, washed it with a cloth (two cups of water to four drops of dish soap), and then rinsed it by wiping it down with a damp cloth followed by a dry one. Much better. Next class, I practically felt like I was using a brand new mat. It’s funny – sometimes when I take the time to care for something external, it feels like an internal cleansing.