This morning I got the old mat and bolsters out to do the “home practice” sequence out of this month’s issue of Yoga Journal. The 9 asanas are meant to help relieve sinus pressure, which I am experiencing.
The first, child’s pose, is an easy favorite. I shut my ears to Thomas the Tank Engine blaring in the background, ignored the cat nudging and purring into my neck, forgot–briefly–the toys and crumbs that surrounded me on the living room floor. I felt a smile grow inside me. “I really really should do this more often,” I thought to myself.
The second is an old standby: down dog. I moved into it slowly, and found that I could neither straighten my legs NOR could I get my heels to the floor, as I am normally able. I sighed into the mat, tried my best to keep my arms extending and my back flat, and let go after MAYBE 30 seconds. (It was probably more like 10.)
And as I worked my way through the sequence, the rest of the poses eluded me; I worked into a decent shoulderstand, but several seconds into my headstand, the crown of my pointy head began to scream. My hamstrings cried out as I attempted to lower my legs into plow. My knees wouldn’t abide reclining hero, which I normally can easily drop into.
Etc. Ad finitum.
I sat back on my mat and tried to remember the last time I practiced. I couldn’t, save for the semester-long class I took a YEAR ago.
What was shocking to me, in the main, was that I’ve left and returned to yoga pretty regularly since I began practicing as an undergraduate. I’ve gone for months without getting on the floor, but have, as a rule, never had to re-train myself back into the flexibility and strength that (it seems like) I’ve always had. Down dog? No problem. Plow? Throw those legs back there!
And today it was like I was working with an alien body, not mine. It was telling me things I’ve never heard: “Nope, not enough room here to do that,” and “Wow, this is really sending some DISCOMFORT to the ____ (insert random body part).”
As I sat on the mat, I wondered: has my body emerged officially out of youth and into something less-youthful? Granted, my body exhibits the marks of the less-youthful: stretch marks from child-bearing, varicose veins, arthritic toes, facial wrinkles, gray hair, and “old-people” bumps on my legs; however, I chalk much of those effects up to hard living: the veins and toe problems are from running, I’m certain. Many of the effects are hereditary: early gray runs in my family, as do the small “leg bumps” (which in all honesty are “moles gone wild”).
And many of you might be chuckling, wondering: “She’s THIRTY-TWO. She has THREE kids. And she’s just now thinking that she may be done with being youthful?”
It might be that I spent so much of my real youth acting like a grown-up. I look at my students today and think: holy crap. When I was HER age I was married. When I was HER age I had 1 (or 2) kids already. I didn’t have a moment in my life where I looked around me and thought, “Hm. Yes? Yes. This is it. I am an adult now. I am GROWN UP. I am leaving my youth behind.” Even as I left hospitals with babies, even as I earned graduated degrees. Even as I celebrated a first, then fifth, then tenth, then twelfth wedding anniversary. Even as I went to a large conference this past winter, wearing a jacket and sensible shoes, to interview for the most grown-up jobs I could ever want. Even as I then visited campuses. Even as I negotiated and accepted a job offer. Even as my own daughter, who is now ELEVEN, confronts the edge of pubescence herself. I still, still, did not feel “grown up.”
Until this morning, when I couldn’t get my legs behind my head anymore. Well. I suppose everyone gets a wake-up call.