A little Yogi or a Yogi with a crush – too soon to tell!

Can I get off now?
Can I get off now?

Sometimes when I get excited about something on Zach’s behalf I wait for the first shoe to drop. And that’s where I am now – excited, anxious, and scared I’m going to jinx it.

You see I have been taking Zach to a children’s class at my yoga place for the last month and it has been a really lovely experience . . .so far. I am as nervous writing this as I am every time we go there – I wasn’t sure if he would stay in the room, much less participate. But, as I am loathe to say, and helpless to stop myself, “so far, so good.”

I can be a tad superstitious in these situations – when things are going well in our part of Schmolland, I am looking to get schmutzed. I’m like those athletes who won’t wash their uniform during a winning streak, or those players who don’t shave until after the playoffs. Once, during a family dinner outing, Zach accidentally gobbled up an entire calamari appetizer he had mistaken for chicken nuggets. The next day at school he was so remarkably agreeable and his eye contact so impressive that his teacher called us at home. We fed Zach a lot of calamari after that with never quite the same results.

It was the same way with horseback riding therapy. After the first few weeks it was going so well I was ready to buy Zach a horse farm. It’s not that he didn’t get a lot out of it – he did, but it was not the “door opening” kind of experience I had hoped it would be. That’s the thing about hope – it has fangs. It’s best to let it sniff the back of your hand with a closed fist, before you get too close to it.

The yoga place I go to is beautiful – family-owned and very welcoming (www.elementsyogaspa.com). I am always happy to be there and blessed with bliss when I leave. So, naturally I was hoping for Zach to get a little of that experience as well.

The class, “Sweet Beat and Happy Feet” combines yoga, dance, music and Simon Says. It is geared for kids who are “chronologically” much younger than Zach, but developmentally, it’s exactly his speed. (As that cool tortoise says, slow and steady wins the race) While he loves the poses and getting to wear a jingly scarf around his waist for the dance moves, his favorite part seems to be Simon Says. He will even take a turn leading the class but will only whisper to me what he wishes the other children to do. Tonight he “asked” the other kids to be “Darth Vader.” He started them off with dark-side mask breathing noises which evolved into light saber noises and then he tossed in a few movie lines under his breath. I hope this is just him warming up.

For the Z man, this is pretty unusual behavior – this quiet stuff. Typically, Zach is a very noisy boy with no inside voice who likes to repeat a great many things – we used to lovingly call him “echo-centric.” Equally unusual is how cooperative he is when we get there – helping set up the mats and props for the class (he won’t hang his backpack up for me at home!). Zach has also been completely compliant with any work we do in front of the mirrored walls – which is not so unusual since he is his biggest fan. The drawback there is getting Narcissus to break his gaze when changing activities or poses. With some prompting it was a bit better tonight. And he only used the restroom once during this week’s class (he loves public restrooms!).

When we were finished with class and gathering up our mats and shoes I really tried to get him to talk, say thank you, anything, but he wasn’t going for it. Then on the drive home I asked him if he liked going to the class . . .once . . .twice. . . third time’s a charm . . . I eventually got a grumpy “yeeesss”. Then I said, “What do you think of the teacher? Isn’t Amaris nice?” He looked out the window for a couple of beats and turned to me and said “She’s beautiful.”

For the first time in a while, I was the one who was speechless! I don’t know if this means he likes the class or that he’s got a sweet spot for this wonderful woman who has been kind enough to try drawing him out the last few weeks, but I don’t care. That was the most spontaneous thing I’ve heard him utter in months and I even got some nice eye contact.

So, I am adding this to my gratitude journal for today and hoping for some more gentle time with my little yogi tomorrow – and quietly, carefully, fingers crossed, I am keeping my eye on the tiny creaking of the door – perhaps I will get another glimpse inside . . . . and just for the heck of it, I may celebrate our tiny triumph with a little calamari. Stay tuned . . .

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Tenderfoot Yogi Chronicles – It Ain’t Easy Being Mindful

prayerI’ve been practicing yoga for the last six months and while I would like to say I’ve gotten better at it I really can’t. What I can say is that I am finally getting “it.” That is to say, that there is no room for struggling, competing, hurrying, or worrying in yoga.

The goal, the prize is serenity – to unify your body, mind and spirit – to transform.  It makes me think of the chubby caterpillar, Heinrich,  in the children’s movie “Bugs Life” who knows that someday he will be a “beautiful butterfly.” But, like Heinrich, there are layers of conditioned thought I must shed if I am to experience a new dimension of self.  In a nutshell, it’s all about letting go.

Applying that while on the mat is where the “practicing” comes in.  I am able to let go for a few moments here and there, concentrate on my breath, be in the moment.  But, I still catch my mind wandering off to grocery lists during “downward facing dog”, or wondering if my “camel” looks as graceful as the woman’s on my left. I have wished for a fresh pedicure more than once while gandering at my hooves during “dolphin” pose, but I am finding that letting go of the image I have of my feet and my body is a challenge that gets easier the longer I practice.  Who cares what my butt looks like in forward fold? Everyone is facing their own knees anyhow! And when I fall out of a pose, which happens nearly every class, it is not as defeating as it used to be – I just try, try again.

As a tenderfoot entering into some of the more complex movements yoga has to offer I often think of my 3-year-old son, Colin, when he was learning to walk. He was quite determined, no matter how many times he landed on his bum, and every fall elicited a gleeful giggle. He approached walking with good humor and curiousity and was always forgiving of his own mistakes. So, I too am trying to approach yoga with the fresh eyes and passion of a child. I am letting my yoga experience free me, from, well, me.  And I am finding many of life’s stale platitudes echoing anew in my ears, like: “Attitude is everything,” “pride goeth before a fall,” “practice makes perfect,” “wherever you go there you are.” And strangely, “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

I say echo, because the lessons are learned over and over and over. Yoga for a novice can turn on a dime, from deep understanding to self-congratulation and right back to frustration. But, with gentle compassion, I nudge my little engine back on the track and think “I can.”

Why, just yesterday I managed to relax into a twist.  Accomplishing such contradictory movements is par for the mat – for instance,  staying grounded in your sitting bones  while lifting up toward the ceiling from the base of your skull actually is possible. Yoga is full of such opposing actions and when achieved – even for an “aha” moment it is a taste of bliss. So I press forward, while being patient – another contradiction conquered!

The awakening is slow, but it keeps me coming back to my mat.  I love the joy that comes after such demanding concentration, the layers of understanding that peel away with every session. I love the deep enigmatic metaphor that is yoga. I have come along enough with my practice to uncover the best kept secret of  yoga – that life is best lived slowly, mindfully, focused in the moment and unencumbered by the small stuff.  It will take many backbends, inversions and sun salutations for me to keep this lesson fresh in my mind, but a moment of unshakeable peace is worth the many moments of practice to get there.