Will we ever stop feeling like we need to be fixed?
I ask this after I spent most of my Saturday at the car shop and watching reruns of “Sex and the City.” Repairs are straightforward for cars because they leave all these clues about why you need to drop $250 unexpectedly, when you thought all it needed was an oil change.
Although it may not be as obvious, our bodies are in constant repair. Cells are regenerated and replaced as often as our thoughts. The skin replaces itself every four weeks; the heart, every six months.
We all spend a great deal of time and money on things we feel are chronically wrong with ourselves. Me, in case in point, with my embarrassingly long, 14-year struggle with acne. Despite the ideal diet, the expensive natural beauty products and the benzoyl peroxide stains on my bed sheets, the problem persists to varying degrees of high and low self-esteem days.
I’d be lying if I said I still hold out hope for a cure, but that’s typical of a low self-esteem day. Try me next week.
At the risk of sounding totally cheesy and taking a metaphor too far (à la Carrie Bradshaw), unless our problem is external, we often fail to notice when our minds need a tune up. We keep going until the proverbial “check engine light” comes on, followed by the breakup, the fall out, the “never again.”
Mental tune up
I mute commercials. I don’t often read the daily news. I avoid gossip as much as I can.
I never used to do these things, until I realized they were bringing me down (i.e. after I began practicing yoga). Call me naive, but I’m content. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about what’s happening Out There. It’s because I care more about what’s happening In Here.
What’s ironic is that if all of us became a bit more selfish about our internal landscape, our life’s (and our world’s) landscape would reflect by default.
This is what we usually do instead:
Someone you know has more (circle one, several): money, good looks, luck, charm, adventure, love. And bam, our wishing distracts us from being and out goes the good mood.
This is no different from what we do to ourselves on the yoga mat. Our bodies feel stiff and stuck in certain poses, so we tell ourselves we’re no good at yoga.
Of all the things that actually go wrong on any given day — catching a cold (or worse mono), getting in an accident, losing your wallet — there are an infinite amount of things that go right.
- I love you’s
- An Internet connection
To practice yoga is to train the mind to notice the infinite we take for granted.
Each time we notice the negative thought or plunk ourselves down on the mat when we reaaally don’t feel like it, we’re acknowledging that we matter, and that it matters to us what goes on in our head.
If feeling unsatisfied with what’s present is the root of your unhappiness, seek the infinite.
Like a papillon who knows the sound of chopping carrots, perk your ears and pay attention to the sweet treats of your everyday life.
Maybe you’ll never completely feel fixed.
But maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t matter.
Try it: Downward-Facing Dog Twisting Variation, Parivrtta Adho Mukha Svanasana Variation
You will notice right away if this posture feels good, great or “eh.” Your mission: Just notice, curiously, where you experience tightness and then breathe right into that space. Remember, it’s not about what you look like here — it’s about how you feel.
- Come to Downward Facing Dog, then shorten your stance by about six inches until your heels touch the mat. Lift your knee caps and femur bones up toward the hip sockets and press firmly into widely spread palms.
- Exhale and reach for your outer left ankle with your right hand. Inhale and firm again down into the left palm. Relax your head and neck completely. Keep your hips high and legs pressing evenly back. You may need to bend into the knees, and if so, bend both equally.
- As you exhale and twist to the left, looking underneath your left armpit, breathe into any tight areas. Rather than strain and force the twist, arrive methodically, easing into your breath and the pose. Return your right hand to the top of the mat after three deep breaths or sooner if you feel your upper body strength compromised.
- Take the pose on the other side or, if you need a break, drop to your knees for Child’s Pose.