Earlier this week, I wrote this post about Crow pose, and all that it has taught me. To be fair, I'd started my Ode to the Crow weeks ago. Before my car got smashed by a drunk driver while parked in front of my house. Before I lost my favorite job of all time with no warning and no severance. And, most importantly, before I had to put my dog, who's been with me for the last ten years, to sleep due to an unknown illness.
I was telling a friend of mine about everything that had happened, and she asked me if I'd been writing through all of this. I told her that I hadn't been writing about specifics, but that I had been typing stuff and I began to tell her about the Crow post.
As the words came out of my mouth, midline, past, present, possibility... They all felt so...fake.
"Fuck this," I said. "It's about keeping your shit together. Anytime you're in an arm balance, that's what you're doing: trying to keep your shit the hell together."
I thought about it more after we got off the phone. This is exactly what I talk about all the time - none of this buddha/beads/bullshit yoga - that's not real life. When shit hits the fan, you don't say oh boy, gotta find my midline! You say *&*#&$ @#U^$%&#^ @I$&U$% and try to keep it together as best you can.
When my car got smashed, I was pissed, partly because I was out my $500 deductible, but mostly because my little Yaris (I call it the Bean) seemed so defenseless sitting out there on the street, unable to fight off a 2 ton German behemoth with one too many lagers down the hatch. I felt sorry -- for my car -- but stuff is stuff and can be replaced. I went to yoga to fight out the aggression I'd have liked to have transfered into a well aimed baseball bat.
When I lost my job, I was bummed for about a half an hour. I freaked out about the money and I was sad to leave the few friends I had made there, but I immediately saw the possibility and freedom inherent in having the opportunity to turn my side hussle into the real deal. I knew that I could do and go pretty much wherever I wanted while I figured it out. I went to yoga to reap the affirmations of divine providence that would no doubt come from my ommies.
Things and jobs come and go, and I can ride the high of opportunity for a really long time. It's in my nature to move around and shake things up, so the prospect of a change of scenery always appeals to me.
Unfortunately, my compass for the last ten years has been my sweet boy, Cooper. I've made most of our decisions based on his needs. Cool air, dry climate, roomy house, big yard, close to trails, dog friendly - those were our requirements anytime we had to move. Without my little man to guide me, I felt lost at sea. The options were drowning me and I had no one to tell. I did not go to yoga because what I would face on my mat was too much to bear with the death of my best friend so fresh in my mind and heart.
As I lay in bed the morning after he died, thinking about, well, nothing really, but certainly not my midline, I was just trying to keep it together (and doing a pretty terrible job). As I've gained even the smallest bit of distance from the raw emotion of it though, I've begun to see the parallels between dealing with what's presented in yoga, to what's thrown at you in life.
Anytime I'm in a pose - be it warrior 2 or parsva budja dandasana - I like to think that I'm activating my adductors, feeling my midline, maintaining embodied core integration, but really, to be honest, I'm just trying to keep my shit together. When I'm standing on my hands with a foot on an elbow and my ass in the air, my first thought is not oh, my triceps are so engaged right now, it's sweet lord don't let me break my face / ass down / fingers down / oh crap foot is sliding / please don't let me fart / can I get three more breaths like this???
This past week it's been much the same. Maybe I won't cry today. What am I going to do for money? How long can I stay at my parents' house before I go nuts? Today I didn't start drinking until 4pm - win. So many moving parts, and me, in the middle, just trying to keep them all together.
This is real life yoga. It's not about what you can handle, what you think looks pretty or what you know feels good. It's about when you get kicked so hard and far beyond all of that that all you can do is try to use everything you've learned in a completely foreign situation, try to figure out what you're working with, and breathe. Inhale, I'm still standing. Exhale, I've got my friends and family. Inhale, I've got options. Exhale, I'll always miss him. Inhale, put my routine back together. Exhale, know that I am supported.
While wearing spandex and putting your foot behind your head may seem arbitrary within the walls of a beautiful studio, the mental gymnastics that you learn while trying prove to be quite handy when life throws you things that are just as complicated and ten times as uncomfortable and annoying. If you can just keep breathing (and not completely dump into your lower back) you'll get through it. While I haven't put so much as a toe to my Manduka in the weeks since I lost my bud, on the mat is certainly a state of mind and the things that I've learned in class are ultimately getting me through this. Everyday it's a little bit easier, everyday my shit's a little more together, everyday I take one more step through it, and breathe.