Shit. I snoozed three times. Dogs are pushing me out of bed to go outside. Have to wake up the boys. Bus gonna be here soon. Forgot to make lunches last night. Really? We’re out of bread? “Guys, wake up!!! We gotta roll!” Cranky zombie teen and confused neanderthal pre-teen wander into the kitchen. Teen spills syrup all over the counter. “Dude, you have to clean that up. …. What?” Pre-teen’s new t-shirt is on backwards. “Buddy, you have to turn your shirt the right way. … Why?” … “Text me after school so I know where you guys are. … [unintelligible mutterings].”
OK, I have ten minutes until my Zoom meeting. Cleaned and dressed in record time. Why are they not letting me into the Zoom? Better call them. Somebody pick up. I cannot NOT be in this meeting. Seriously? The meeting was rescheduled? Why didn’t I get the email? Uggh.
The squirrels in my head are laughing at me.
I’m going to Yoga class.
Sure, in my first post I highlighted the relative lack of reference to Asana (physical postures) practice in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Nonetheless, Asana is one of the eight limbs of Yoga and thus, a fundamental pillar of Yoga and therefore a fundamental pillar of quieting the mind.
So, off to Yoga class I went to see if my cranial squirrels were ready for a nap. The drive over to class did nothing to quiet the squirrels. They simply ran in looping circles like motorcycles inside one of those meshed circus steel globes reminding me of all the things I had to do today. They reminded me of how worried I am about my kids. They reminded me of all the things I should be that I am not. The squirrels demanded that I listen to the news to see how bad COVID is getting again. Are the squirrels going to follow me into Yoga class?
As I mentioned in other posts on this site, I had some wild shoulder surgery back in October 2020. I’m good now. But after I completed my formal physical therapy, I turned to find a Yoga Asana practice to safely get my strength and flexibility back after sitting on the couch for a bunch of months. In that search I found a place nearby that some friends recommended. It’s a hot yoga studio. The owner and instructors are wonderful people, mostly coming from formal dance backgrounds. Classes typically take place in a room with the temps cranked up to about 105-110 degrees.
They call it 26+2. Well, it’s really Bikram Yoga but these days nobody wants to be associated with Bikram Choudhury, the person claiming to have created this specific practice. Some rather serious allegations were leveled against him. So now most studios have removed any reference to Bikram in their studios. There’s a whole Netflix documentary about it if you’re interested. I digress. Nonetheless, there are twenty-six specific postures and two breathing exercises in this practice. It’s identical every time. There is no deviation in sequence or duration. It is rather militaristic, almost like calisthenics in the rigidity of its presentation. Repetitive. But for me that may be the beauty, the groomed, consistent path for quieting my mind through Asana practice.
I entered the room. Picked my spot. Always farthest from the door. It’s already really hot. “Raise your arms above your head.” Class begins.
In class, my mind never wanders wondering what will happen next or whether the instructor will introduce a new posture or ask the students to hold a posture longer than last time. It’s the same every time. That’s the idea with 26+2. I know exactly what posture is coming and the squirrel assigned to worry about what the next posture will be quickly goes to sleep. One down. I can now just focus on the present posture. I focus on where my breath is. Breathe into the stretch. Pull back, too far. The squirrel assigned to worrying about my kids is obviously asleep because I haven’t heard from him once in the first fifteen minutes of class. Two down. The heat and slight dehydration is jacking my heart rate. One of the squirrels still running around tells me my heart rate is high because I’m out of shape and I should just quit. That’s ok. Breathe. Breathe through your nose, back of your throat. I hear the ocean in my breath. Heart rate coming back down.
My breathing put another squirrel to sleep. Exhale through the extension. A little bit. Hang here. Breathe into my low back, fill my spine. What Zoom call? Four down. My right side is tighter than yesterday. Why? Breathe. Pull slow. My feet feel connected to my mat right now, like nice fly paper that unsticks whenever I want it to. The guy next to me fell out of his posture. Why? What happened? None of my concern. Breathe. Focus. Sink a little deeper. Eyes close.
I no longer feel the heat of the room. My heart rate is synced with my breathing as I lie on my mat. I feel my heart beat gently and my breath is light.
“Thank you for allowing me to join you in your practice today,” says the instructor bringing class to a close. Wait, what? We’re done?
Do you hear that? Seriously. Listen close. Ssshhh. Quiet. Look, the squirrels are all asleep now, in their little squirrel beds, wearing little squirrel sleeping hats. They’re so cute when they sleep.