I began practicing yoga earnestly after my first child was born. Like many habits we forge in life; my yoga practice was born of a desire for peace and calm in my life. You see, my beautiful little boy was born with a large birthmark on his head. So, from the moment I took him in with my eyes, I began worrying – about this birthmark, about whether everything was going to be ok. I was out of my head with worry for years. There were endless doctor visits, surgeries, pain, skin-expanders, and stitches. The only relief I felt from that kind of piercing worry was when I was practicing yoga.
I practiced for over 10 years faithfully two or three times a week. I found that when I was trying to get my leg behind my head, or hold myself into a handstand, I forgot about all of those worries. Focused practice dissipated all of that nervous energy and replaced that with a calm (tired) energy that helped me face all of that stinking stress. In my mind I attached yoga like a Band-Aid for my stresses. yoga and stress-relief were inextricably linked for me, and this dynamic worked beautifully for many years.
Isn’t this why we come to practice earnestly whatever we do?
My son is just fine now. There was no fanfare after the last stitch came out, it just ended quietly and left me with a life that could now shift into fourth gear. Now when I practiced, I found the payoff – the ‘hit’ I got off of it – was more subtle. I didn’t NEED it anymore like I used to. I couldn’t help but view my yoga practice as a safety blanket that I had now outgrown.
About a year and a half ago, I stopped going. I took a sabbatical of sorts. In that time, I never stopped thinking about my practice and how I missed it. I wouldn’t ever want those stressful days back, but at the same time, I had a hard time trying to reinvent the reasons why I would continue to practice yoga in the absence of chronic stress.
This is not unlike the runner who begins to run in order to lose weight. After a long time running the weight comes off. She has to decide now if she wants to run for the sheer joy of doing it.
This is how it is with me, I carry those memories of that stressful time on my shoulders in a gesture of honor; and then find I have a backache. My yoga sabbatical taught me my kid is fine, that was a long time ago, and it’s time to move on. It’s O.K. to experience the joy of a stress-free yoga practice.
I’m back to my mat again. I’ve decided to try a new kind of relationship to yoga, and we’re taking it slow. I’ve learned that the best way to honor any past heaviness in my life is to put it down. Take a breather. You’ll find new reasons to embrace what you love if you give it time.