That’s A Twist
Standing on my yoga mat, I step my legs about three feet apart and point my right foot forward. My arms form a T and I rotate from my waist sending my left hand in the air and my right hand sliding down my left leg toward my foot. Patricia, our yoga teacher, encourages us to “Breathe deeply.”
Some 20 minutes earlier, I’d unrolled my mat in line next to Virginia and Kim, my yoga pals. There’s a bunch of us who weave this bit of “me-time” into our routine. About 30 men and women relying on these bends, twists and stretches to help unite mind, body and spirit.
As I take a slow inhalation and hold this twisted triangle pose, my thoughts page back to eighth grade. My classmate Maggie’s 13th birthday party. If I had been practicing yoga then, I would have won that game of Twister, instead of toppling over after her mom called out: “Right hand on blue. Left foot on green.”
Since junior high I’ve learned a lot about mental and physical adaptability. The fact that I’m the mother of three sons has contributed greatly. But recently I credit my enhanced limberness and awakened inner peace to yoga. Three mornings a week — for a blessed 75 minutes – my world stops as I stand tall in mountain pose and breathe from my belly.
Before I started practicing yoga, my body (and spirit) sent out steady, achy complaints. These pain-racked signals culminated in an all-out demand for me to learn how to relax my soul and quiet my mind. One undeniable yoga signpost came during lunch with my good friend Sue. After our usual updates about kids, husbands and careers, our girl talk took a more personal tilt: “So what are you doing for yourself these days?” she asked in between bites of our shared tiramisu.
I was glad she asked. As a result of a recent scare with high blood pressure, I had become a self-proclaimed expert about benefits of mediation. And with the over-the-top enthusiasm characteristic of the newly converted, I launched into a PowerPoint-worthy presentation on the pluses of quiet contemplation.
Sue smiled and then asked, “Have you ever considered yoga?” After another bite dessert, she added, tentatively: “You know you are, uh, wound a bit tight sometimes.”
I knew she wasn’t referring to the snug spirals of my naturally curly hair. In her own understated way, Sue was suggesting that I — like lots of women – had a tendency to over-react to everyday dilemmas. I was guilty of attacking each mini-drama as the next hill to die on. And maybe, just maybe, my current coping style wasn’t the sanest way to live if I wanted to be around to see my grandkids.
As an eighth grader, I didn’t realize that playing a “game that ties you up in knots” was a peek into the future. At 13 how could I know that pretty much everything in life takes agility — college, relationships, children, careers. We have to find balance, but no one tells you how you lost it or where to look for it once you’ve discovered it’s missing. So it’s no wonder that when we take on too much we topple over. I am a loving partner (left foot on yellow) and a good mother (right foot on blue). I hold down a job (left hand on red), manage a household (left foot on red) and try to find a smidgen of time for myself (right foot on green).
Except for an occasional kid’s birthday party, my Twister days are behind me. These days I find balance in my wobbly attempts to stand in tree pose. I concentrate on being still on the inside so that later, when one of life’s inevitable twists or turns arises, I can stay calm on the outside.
Still standing in revolved triangle, Patricia’s soft voice encourages the class to breathe more deeply. “Open up your chest by turning a little more toward the back of the room.” My thoughts interrupt: What’s for dinner? Did I unplug the iron? I wonder if my paycheck hit the bank yet. Boy, I’d love a piece of cake. Yoga has improved my range of motion, but I’m still working on the “letting-go-of-my-thoughts” part of this restorative discipline.
With encouragement from yogis like Patricia (and thanks to Sue) I’m gradually getting it. During these few minutes, worries about food, kids and money float through my mind like bubbles in the breeze. I remind myself that I have the rest of the day to figure out what to get my niece for her birthday. But for now, while I’m in class, I work on staying in the moment. Patricia, like Maggie’s mom did decades ago, calls out a new pose — right foot and right hand on green, left foot and left hand on blue. I slowly position myself into downward facing dog and breathe deeply.