I’m hanging out with my parents when my dad sees me frantically rubbing my thumbs against the palms of my hands.
“Are you nervous?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say.
He wants to know why. How to explain?
My parents have been visiting the past few days. I haven’t seen them in over six months. It’s the longest period of time we’ve ever been apart (even when I lived in Europe after college I saw them at least every four months). The past few days have been one big party. We’ve eaten red meat and fried foods. We’ve had Grasshoppers (ice cream and alcohol) and cookies. I think I munched on a vegetable in there somewhere – yes, I steamed spinach one night – but other than that, I can’t say I’ve been practicing “mindful eating” since Saturday. And my home yoga regime? Completely cut off once my parents arrived (although my mom saw my mat, which was rolled out on the floor, and she practiced sun salutations).
“I’m not sure what to blog about for Wasa this week,” I finally say to my dad.
“Well, let’s think,” he says.
“I’m supposed to blog about yoga and mindful eating, but I’m not inspired given my eating habits and lack of yoga practice,” I explain.
My dad is silent for awhile. “You could talk about how yoga is important for old people like me,” he finally says. “As people age, they are at an increased risk of falling. So write in your blog that yoga is important for balance and to do yoga with a Wasa cracker.”
“Uh, okay. Thanks,” I say.
“Just trying to help,” he says.
My mom chimes in too. “Oh, I know,” she says. “Blog about the fact that we bought a juicer.”
It’s true. My parents read the Wasa blog and were inspired to buy a juicer.
“Last week we made peach juice with vodka,” my mom says. “It was delicious!” She pauses. “Am I missing the point?”
Well, I do wish they would make vegetable juice instead, but maybe I’m the one who is missing the point. As I drop them off at the airport, I know what I’m going to blog about: A Time to Feast. This week we’ve hit up good restaurants and had fun cooking in too. We played cards and watched baseball and talked, all over scones for breakfast and steaks for dinner. It was a reunion. A celebration. A time to enjoy life. Not that we couldn’t have done that over Brussels sprouts and brown rice, but eating well most of the time makes it easier to allow the exceptions. Not to mention, those “exceptions” are much appreciated.
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 slouch too much.
At times – pecking away on my laptop, eating a meal, relaxing on the couch – I’ll catch myself and try to fix it.
Lately, I’ve noticed another habit I’ve developed over the years: frowning. Well, maybe not frowning exactly, but holding a tense face.
Opening the yoga practice, I am sitting with my legs crossed mid-shin. The teacher tells the class to close our eyes and place the back of our hands on our knees with our palms facing the ceiling. Then she tells us to relax our face.
“Relax your jaw,” she says.
“Relax the muscles around your eyes,” she continues.
“Relax the space between your brows . . . your eyelids . . . and even the skin underneath the eyelids.”
She tells the class that relaxing the face is one way to help quiet the brain.
As we continue the practice – sun salutations, standing poses, and core exercises – she gently reminds us about the muscles in our face. And every time it feels amazingly nice to relax them.
I’m about to fall asleep when my husband, Ron, reaches out and shakes my shoulder.
“Are you awake?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say.
“What do you want for your birthday?”
“Hmmm,” I say. “I don’t know. Let me think about it.”
But I do know. I’m debating between various brands of juicers (Green Star or Omega – any thoughts?). Ron is going to keel over when he hears this. In the six years we’ve been together, I’ve never asked for a single item relating to the kitchen.
Not a pot.
Not a pan.
Not a knife, a spatula, or a whisk.
Growing up, I never learned how to cook. My girlfriends and I — we were women of a new generation. We were going to be doctors, lawyers, and mathematicians (and we are). There would be no time for preparing meals. (I’m not sure what our eating plan was — hired help? fast food? — we didn’t think about that part). I do vaguely recall taking a Home Economics course in high school. Men were required to take it too. We baked a pie. I stared at the aluminum container holding the crust and debated between leaving it or removing it. I wasn’t sure aluminum should go in the oven so I took it off. My pie looked more like a pancake.
People change, though.
Now I see our kitchen in a whole new light. Cooking spinach lasagna the other night, I sipped a glass of wine and turned on some tunes. I had to call my mother — twice — and ask her whether I was supposed to cook the whole wheat lasagna noodles or layer them in the dish uncooked. (The first time she said, “Cook ‘em!” and the second time she said, “Yes, I’m positive. Cook ‘’em!”) I cooked the noodles. The food was delicious. I’m no longer intimidated by the kitchen. Bring on the juicer!