Sunday
Nov172013

Force of a Thousand Oms

"Yoga's weird and you're weird. That's why you like it." Baron Baptiste

In every yoga class I go to, the teacher knows not to adjust me into an intense back-opening pose. They don't mess with me in cobra, locust, wild thing or flip dog. It's pretty obvious from watching me that I coddle my lower back. I don't do upward dog. I don't do wheel. Also, teachers routinely ask their students before class whether they have injuries. I always mention my history of disc herniations. 

The instructors assisting the Baron Baptiste full-day immersion workshop didn't know that, though, so when I flipped my dog during the last practice of the day, the teacher supported my lower back and tapped my thighs and basically waited for me to drop into wheel. 

The last time I did a full wheel was in the weeks and months following Esme's birth. At the time, I was eager to dive back into my yoga practice and explore poses I had to take a break from toward the end of my pregnancy. I missed the vitality and power of a vigorous practice and I wanted to do it all. Now. Immediately.

The teacher cued us into wheel and I was  gung ho, totally ignorant to the fact that my body was still surging with pregnancy hormones that relaxed my ligaments and made my joints loosey goosey. I pushed past previous edges without understanding why but happy to be back in my body. And so I practiced as much as I could. Until a few months later, I couldn't practice at all because of the extreme pain in my upper arms and shoulders. I went from full wheels to the inability to lift my arms to shoulder height. It was the first of many injury- or pregnancy-related hiatuses I took from a regular yoga practice. And it was the last time I did wheels. 

Upside down, in a room full of 400 yogis, I found an opening in my lower back I haven't felt in I don't remember when. I do not feel compelled to do wheels. I don't feel like my yoga practice is lacking because I don't practice them. I don't feel pushed by any sense of ego or competition on my mat. My practice is mine. So, I would not have dropped into the pose if it wasn't for that most glorious feeling of openness that followed a wave of pop pop pop pops. 

It happened like this: we flipped our dogs and the teacher walked past and placed her hands under my back. Time kind of stopped because I could sense that she was coaxing me toward more and I wondered how my body would respond and then, the pops, and I switched my standing hand and dropped my other and there I was… in wheel. 

I thought about it later. Perhaps, I was supported by the energy in the room and the force of a thousand Oms.

Friday
Nov152013

Friday

Hello, morning. You looked beautiful today. 

I hit the SNOOZE button at 5:20 a.m., rolled over and took stock of my body. I planned to go to the 6 o'clock yoga class but my legs felt out to gas. I thought ahead to Saturday and the 11-hour yoga intensive I signed up for, then Sunday and the 90-minute class Kent and I plan to take. I reminded a friend just this week of the yoga notion of Ahimsa or "non-violence." "Practice it on yourself," I told her. I decided to follow my own advice and skip practice, rest my legs, save some fuel for the weekend. 

Instead of an asana practice, I experimented with breath work. One of my teachers asked us to practice lengthening our inhales and exhales. I find the exhales easier and can get to 26 seconds. The inhales are much harder and today I topped out at 18 seconds. My teacher can push his inhales all the way into the 40s. The freak. 

The kids eat 25 pounds of fresh fruit every week and by this morning, we were out, so I stopped by the grocery for more. I also picked up some power bars for the yoga workshop and, oh, malted milk balls. It's a sickness, I know.

Desmond is a super sensitive, intense little fellow who grasps the world in full and terrible detail and, as a result, can feel overwhelmed under the weight of it all. We are trying to help him find more happiness and better coping skills. So, every Friday, I sit in this lobby while he talks to a psychologist. 

The plumber called multiple times while I sat there and I imagined there was some disaster afoot at the house - a ruptured sewer line, broken tiles, I don't know, something. I sent him straight to voicemail every time because I thought, what good can I do now? I'm not going to take Desmond out of the appointment early anyway. You deal with it. I finally called him when we were back on the road to school. The crisis? He needed me to stop by Home Depot again. 

Oh, Home Depot, long time no see. You have some tiles and a toilet for me, right?

Which reminds me. The slow creep of Christmas crept even further back this year. We started seeing Christmas trees and decorations literally the day after Halloween. Earlier this week, Josephine even remarked on the trees and wondered why they're out already. "It feels like everyone is trying to rush the holiday," she said. To wit:

Living so close to the White House, we often see Marine I in flight - over the garden plot, the house, along the Mt. Vernon Trail, certainly most places in the city and many days outside school. It flew over today while Tobias was throwing a paper airplane which struck me kind of funny. I always try to wave.

I wore a new sweater.

Final random thought: after dinner, I watched last night's episode of Scandal on Hulu . Holy hell. We need to talk about that one. 

Thursday
Nov142013

Thursday

When Tobias and I turned the corner on the drive to school, we gasped. 

"Wow!" I said.

"That is awesome!" he shouted. 

And it was: a golden carpet of ginkgo leaves that blanketed the sidewalk and grass and stretched the length of three houses. I parked the car when I got home and walked to the corner to snap a picture. 

Because I wore my pajamas to preschool drop off, I showered after taking the picture and soaked in the tub for a short spell too. I remarked on Facebook that legs up the wall pose is really best executed in a hot bubble bath. It's true. Try it. 

After the soak, I went for my third rolfing appointment. Rolfing is a form of deep tissue massage that focuses on whole body alignment rather than a single spot of pain or tension. So, for instance, if you suffer from shoulder pain, a rolfer wouldn't just massage the shoulder but work on various parts of your body to find the source of the pain. 

My first appointment was very similar to the first meeting I had with my physical therapist. He watched me walk. He stared at me while I stood. He asked reams of questions. 

I wasn't in pain when I decided to see him, the physical therapist got that in check last spring. But I'm not 100 percent either. I am constantly worried, constantly, that one wrong move and my back is going to go out again. I am super cautious in yoga and step back from any twinge of discomfort. I don't do upward dog. I don't do wheel. I avoid most any type of bendy back motion you can name. 

I wondered whether the rolfing might help free up some of that anxiety, bring more motion to my motionless parts. The verdict is still out on whether it works. My neck hurt for a few hours after my first appointment and my neck never hurts. Then, my hip started hurting and I felt even more lopsided than I already am. The hip pain lingered after my second appointment and I wondered whether the rolfing was making things worse, not better.

But I left today's appointment feeling square and level and good. So good that I went for a walk in the woods and tripped some sort of endorphin surge that I felt quite ecstatic with the bald eagles flying overhead, the shimmering water and the leaves, the glorious leaves. 

Tobias and his mates run wild in the grass outside school every day after dismissal. They climb the cherry trees, wrestle, fight, then make up and hug. They always hug. 

He recorded license plate numbers for fun today during pick up.

I was supposed to take the girls to swim practice after school but Esme felt poorly and went to her bed to read, then fell asleep. Frankly, I was grateful to stay home. If there's one part of the week I detest, it's swim practice. We're required to stay while the kids swim which means Desmond and Tobias are forced, like me, to sit for 90 minutes and more while the girls swim back and forth, back and forth. Of course, the boys are bored out of their minds and take it out on each other. It's a pretty miserable window of time. Instead, I made dinner and futzed about on the computer. 

Early to bed. 

Wednesday
Nov132013

Wednesday

There's a spot in the corner of the couch beneath the lamp where I sit every morning. I curl my legs under me or sit criss cross applesauce, drink my coffee and stare out the windows. From where I sit, I can see the birch tree outside the dining room window and the dogwood outside the window in the front room. In the spring, when the dogwood blooms, it's as if I'm suspended inside the tree's blossoms. All but a few straggler leaves remain on the tree now which has opened a clear view of the giant oaks across the way. 

The sun rises over there, toward the river, and the room slowly fills with light as the day wakes. 

I go to bed early in part so I can get up early and enjoy this view, this silence, these still moments before bleary-eyed kids sit for cereal at the table. 

The first of Kent's alarms rang at 6:38 a.m. today. It's my signal to get up and make the kids' lunches. I try to finish with the kitchen before he starts fumbling around to make everyone breakfast. 

I drive carpool every afternoon, but we trade morning drop off from week to week with our neighbor. She picked up the kids at 7:15 and I got to eat breakfast and try to talk to Kent between Tobias' incessant ramblings about this thing or the other. 

At 8:30, I dropped Tobias at preschool then drove to the elementary school for a 90-minute shift as a library volunteer. The school requires every family to contribute 50 volunteer hours, so I help in the library and cafeteria every week, chaperone field trips, and, in December, I'll start helping with the first-graders' reading program. 

I've signed up in previous years to work in the library but never got picked. This year, for whatever reason, I did. It's a fun job that appeals to my sense of quiet and order. I shelve books, check them in and out. It reminds me of my bookstore days. 

Ho-hum errands after: 

The car wash

The variety store for dish soap

Coffee and laundry and a trip to Old Navy for winter coats that actually fit Desmond and Josephine.

Our oven broke a week ago and I haven't set up a repair appointment because I haven't been home long enough to meet a repairman. I finally made a call today. They're coming to the house Saturday (when I'll be out). I also called our next door neighbor to see if I could cook two meatloaves in her oven for dinner. Then I left to pick up Tobias from his school. Every afternoon, he and I queue up on the streets of Old Town outside the school 45 minutes before dismissal. It sounds insane. It IS insane, but the lines are so long and the process complicated and unless I want the kids to sit on the blacktop for 30 minutes or more waiting, we have to wait in the car. I read my phone or listen to NPR. He talks and talks and talks and talks. 

Here he is once we finally get the others, happy to be joined by people who don't try to shush him. 

Fast forward to my favorite part of Wednesday, the thing I look forward to all week, in fact: a new "Rocket" yoga class. It started at our studio about a month ago but it's taught by a teacher who co-owns another studio in the area. He's an inversion junkie but the class, while loaded with opportunities to go upside down, starts with the most delicious 25 minutes of breathwork. He puts on a loud drumbeat soundtrack and we inhale four beats, exhale four beats and move through five repetitions of Sun Salutations A and B, some of which we do with our eyes closed. The union of movement and breath has always been my favorite part of any class. This one just has bonus handstand and funky arm balances afterward to boot. We end each class with a four-minute headstand, including a minute spent in a pike position, that's quite fierce. 

The teacher got tied up in traffic and was late, so class felt rushed, not quite as intense. Still, there was time to close my eyes and breathe. And play.

Tuesday
Nov122013

Tuesday

It was a quiet, wonky practice this morning. Only four other students turned out for Sam's 6 o'clock class. My legs felt heavy and weak, I toppled unexpectedly to my bottom during a basic transition and bonked my head on the sloped ceiling after class. But there were deep inhales, longer exhales, laughter, because who doesn't laugh after falling, and savasana. Always savasana. 

Say hello to the morning regulars at Elmo's. And the ginkgo trees.

I came home and showed Kent a pose I finally figured out late last night after weeks of trying. I crawled into bed early Monday, like most nights, but jumped out an hour or so later after I stumbled on a video made by a new friend (and yoga teacher) who demonstrated a different way into eka pada bakasana or one-legged crow. It's a pose I've found remarkably difficult. Until now, I always started in crow then tried to slip one leg out and up. I always dropped unsuccessfully to my knees or belly, convinced I lacked the core strength to find air.

But last night, I lifted my leg from a down dog position, fumbled once or twice positioning my knee on my upper arm and immediately went up. Boom. It wasn't as effortless this morning, but I'm on the road now. 

My patience with the kids was tapped by 9:04 a.m. and when I looked at the clock, I thought, "Good god, this is going to be a long day."

Back to Home Depot for more bathroom tiles and this time I didn't need to separate anyone.

Someone lied about Halloween candy and no one would fess up so I chucked all of their bins. I expected histrionics but there were only a few unconvincing tears. 

We stocked up on books next when we made our weekly pilgrimage to the library a few days early. Then after lunch, we ventured west toward the mountains and the middle of nowhere Virginia to a giant warehouse filled with wall to wall trampolines. 

Turns out, I shouldn't have wasted the money to buy myself a pass because my back can't take the jumping. I bounced three or four times before walking back to the side, then watched jealously as the kids bounced themselves silly. I tried again a few minutes later but, nope. The pain was sharp and immediate and just like what I experience when I try to run. 

I'm grateful as all get out that I can tie my shoes without crying and take my yoga practice as far as I have, but I'll admit to great sadness at the very long list of things I can't and likely won't ever be able to do again. Trying my best every day to accept the limitations gracefully. Like my yoga practice, I'll keep trying.