Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


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You Can Lead A Husband to Yoga but You Can Not Make Him Practice: The 7-Year Pose

I believe everyone should have an opportunity to practice yoga. I dream of bringing a regular yoga practice into our public school system. This is a long-term goal of mine filled with some obvious and some surprising obstacles. I am not discouraged because yoga is a constant in a world of variables.

In the short term, I encourage the people in my life to practice. Because I know it will help to keep them healthy both physically and mentally. I do not persuade saying you should, you should. It is more of a how about? or would you like?

Surprisingly, it was the person closest to me that was the most challenging recruit.

When I met my husband I was practicing yoga 5 to 6 times a week.  While we were dating I often suggested he take a class.  He declined, saying he really didn’t think it was his thing. After we got married I continued to suggest he try it. He continued to decline.

I would rattle off all the benefits of the practice from improved brain function to better lung capacity. It interested him, but my husband has conservative roots. The stereotype of bearded yogis in flowing outfits sitting very still was an image he couldn’t shake. After perusing a yoga magazine of mine, he was further concerned about what might be expected of him.

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You will not be required to wear this outfit or take this pose.

Regardless of his misconceptions, I was convinced he would love yoga. One of his sports in school had been wrestling. I knew it required the same flexibility and stamina needed in power yoga.  I was sure he would love the strenuous work out of the Baptiste practice. I just had to figure out a way to introduce him to it.

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Wrestlers warming up. Look familiar?

While I was earning my yoga teaching certificate I practiced instruction on anyone I could get my hands on: Fellow high school teachers, willing friends. I even talked the high school basketball coach into letting me run the team through asanas before their practice.

I was so excited when my husband offered up our daughter’s nap time for me to practice with him. I thought this would be the turning point and he would become hooked. What really happened was a disappointment.

The dynamic of the two of us in our basement rec room did not accurately mimic a real class. I had my nose in my notes, stopping and repeating parts of my instruction that I wanted to improve, our dog wandered about, often laying down on my husband’s mat. I had not orchestrated the ideal introduction to this cherished, ancient practice.

I know a lost opportunity when I see one and I stopped pushing for him to go to the studio with me.

I was content to have yoga be my thing. It didn’t have to be his too.

It was Mother Nature that changed everything.

The winter of 2014 brought some of the worst weather the East Coast had seen in a long time. We were pummeled by snow storm after snow storm, followed by icy winds and impassable roads. It was relentless. We spent more time than ever indoors. The cold seeped into our bones. A couple months into our temporary tundra I found my husband arching his back over the arm of the couch. Hanging upside down, he said, “I really need to stretch.”

snow-2010

I suggested yoga again for the first time in over a year. He seemed unsure about the studio, but he was willing to try an online class.  I found one that was filmed in a real studio to give him an idea of what it would be like. Feeling like this bubble of interest could easily pop, I was careful not to get too involved as he found his way through his first practice. As I expected, he loved it.

For two weeks we had a standing 6pm yoga date. We would bustle in from our icy commutes and set up our mats in front of the T.V. where we streamed different online classes. I watched as his form improved without much help from me. He was a natural. I was ridiculously proud of him.

One freezing Sunday morning I took him to his first hot yoga class at my favorite studio. The class was packed and full of good energy. He immediately took to the intensity of the workout and the heat of the studio.

It was almost 7 years between the first time I suggested he try yoga and the first time he stepped into a yoga studio. Now, he gets himself to class without any suggestions from me.

That is the great thing about yoga, it is a constant, continuous rhythm of inhalations and exhalations that is always there when anyone is ready to jump in.

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The Healing Pose

I have a shoulder injury. I’m not sure how I did it.  I discovered it when I went to do a Side Plank on my left side and a sharp pain shot out of my shoulder, collapsing my arm.

Side Plank

I couldn’t believe it and spent a couple of months putting my knee down in Gate Pose instead. But it didn’t get better.

Gate Pose Variation

Gate Pose Variation

I finally went to the doctor. He wanted to rule out a rotator cuff tear. After an MRI, we found it is an inflamed Acromioclavicular joint or AC joint.

Shoulder anatomy with acromioclavicular joint, eps10

Along with a possible cortisone shot, anti-inflamatory medication and physical therapy, the doctor has advised; No push ups, pull ups, raising my arm high above my head and no weight-bearing exercises.  It means no Down Dog, no Chaturanga, no Sun Salutations, no Planks…the list goes on and on.

So basically, no yoga.

I’ve been running, doing a lot of leg work outs and sit ups.  Afterwards, I spend a long time in my favorite pose, Half Pigeon.

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It’s a solitary workout. I miss my Baptiste yoga and my interval training classes.  I’m used to smiling faces and the friendly guidance of the instructor.

When I was in yoga teacher training our instructor said, “Yoga is the practice of breathing through stressful physical positions so when you get off your mat you have learned to breathe through stress.”

The purpose of yoga is to work the body so that your mind can truly relax into meditation. Buddhists use a term called Monkey Mind meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable” to describe an unfocused mind. My yoga practice helps me to focus my frantic my mind.  It allows me to adapt to the moment.

I have never been serene. My thoughts jump around like one of those mischievous movie monkeys. Bouncing around, creating havoc and anxiety.

I am confident that if I was currently a child in school, some well-meaning teacher or school counselor would get a hold of me and accurately diagnose me with ADHD or ADD. My mind has always hopped about in a way that didn’t match my surroundings.  I learned to make my busy brain work for me, but it can be exhausting. When I started practicing yoga it was as if that crazy monkey went to charm school. My thoughts learned to wait their turn.

I’m not able to do yoga right now and I’m a bit scattered.

It’s unfortunate.

But it is not the end of the world.

It’s time to literally take my practice off my mat, breathe deep and focus with gratitude on the healing that is happening.