The onions were simmered and now burning. My Tofurky Italian Sausage charred. I was about to dump in the tomatoes when I realized I hadn’t chopped the red pepper.
I’ve had these moments lately where red peppers appear long after I’m about to turn off the heat. There’s never only one sneeze — always two. I want to rush into Wheel Pose, but I haven’t even practiced Bridge.
So I did what anybody would do in the situation: I turn down the heat, chop the pepper and mix it in. When we eat the meal the peppers are a bit crispy, but we don’t mind.
Temperature has been on my mind, now that autumn is here with its 60 degrees and sometimes snows (I live near the mountains in Colorado.) Nights are chilly, my feet are forever cold and I awake in the middle of the night, sweating for all the sheets.
In writing and researching a couple freelance articles this month, I learned that temperature causes treelines. I guess I always knew this — that, like all things, trees need certain conditions in order to survive. But the simplicity of the statement stuck with me.
Temperature causes treelines.
It feels so elegant that trees have their limits just like us. More elegant than metal pie crust rims that prevent burnt edges of your bake-once-a-year pumpkin pie. More elegant — and certainly less effortful — than lying in repose on your side, trying not to skin your elbow while you hook your thumb around your big toe near a dancing dog.
Your body’s treeline
Thermometers tell us if we’re well and if our sugar will turn into candy crystals. It’s how we decide culturally if today is a good or bad day. How we fill up so much space in conversations with strangers and acquaintances because this, without question, is an easy shared experience to riff about.
We all know we’re continuously growing, shifting, changing with the seasons. The you of last year, heck even the last 30 days, is as distant as trying to remember what you had for lunch three days ago.
What if you stopped letting the environment rule your mood? What if you accepted your treeline?
In yoga asana, for example, over-stretching yourself to the brink of pain (for the sake of touching said big toe) can potentially injure ligaments and tendons. I’ve read too many articles about the downside of over-stretching to know not to push myself or others until our bodies are ready.
Are you trying to push past certain boundaries that are in place for a reason?
Maybe the more important question is: What for?
Discerning your truth
Our physical treelines are obvious; mental ones, less so.
Sometimes, mental treelines can become an excuse for not changing. It’s a muddled process, trying to discern whether your mental boundary is in place because you want it to be or not.
You’ll know, though, when you feel resistance. Just like the resistance in our bodies, it’s meant to be listened to. Acknowledged. Learned from.
It is You telling you the truth.
We talk ourselves into and out of the strangest things. We beat ourselves up for not catching the red pepper before the recipe is nearly over. But being hard on yourself or pushing yourself is not the only way to grow.
Or, to put it another way, trees don’t lament the fact that they can’t grow at average temperatures below 50 degrees.
Try it: Side-Reclining Leg Lift Pose, Anantasana
Surprised this pose isn’t Tree? I was never one for the obvious. Instead, practice Anantasana to see what it really feels like to resist and soften and balance, without the somewhat maddening judgment that enters when you’re balancing on one foot.
Note: Practice with your back against a wall if you feel unsteady in this pose.
- Lie on your right side, flexing the right foot and stretching your right arm away from your head. Support your head with your right palm and plant your left palm in front of you to steady yourself.
- Draw your right knee in, pointing the toes up to externally rotate the leg, and grasp the big toe with your left thumb and middle finger. If this isn’t comfortable, use a strap or belt looped around the sole of the foot and held in your left hand. Inhale and extend your leg high.
- Resist rotating backward by tucking the pelvis toward your right leg, helping you maintain balance and open the leg up even more.
- Press through both heels and breathe deeply for six to eight breaths. Release your grip on an exhale and lower your leg back to the floor. Roll over onto your left side and repeat.