What’s Rocky Balboa got to do with my yoga? A lot, actually.

“Oh…little one. I think I’m going to call you Rocky,” my loving teacher half-joked whilst kneading the rocks between my shoulder blades in Child’s Pose this morning. And I thought they were just hard earned rhomboids from daily handstands the past six years.

handstand 2015

handstand 2015

Last time someone called me Rocky was my pop back when I was 7 years old. Pissed off at my brother pulling my pigtails one too many times, I clocked him in the lower teeth sending a temporarily capped tooth flying. Mom was even more pissed, as the original tooth perished with an ambitious date with a candy cane. But dad took it in stride. Fight when you gotta kiddo, but without the fists next time. Since then I can’t recall more than once or twice in the decades that followed ever lashing out at anyone or anything other than a psycho driver who tried to run me over for walking in front of his car to drop off a box at a Goodwill truck. My good will went out the window and yes, a fist landed on his windshield. But honestly, no other fists have flown since. I swear.

Anger isn’t something I identify with. Let down, disappointed, regretful, frustrated, irritated, sure. But anger. Nah, not me. That’s something out-of-control, non yogic hotheads in trucks with buzzcuts and short tempers and long commutes to wherever they don’t want to be driving to have to drive to contend with. Not this calm, cool, yoga chick.

Until my rocky shoulders gave it away. There’s anger in there, alright. Except it’s bound up in my muscle tissue instead of a pair of boxing gloves. As crazy as this epiphany felt (literally, figuratively), I left class grateful for once again, discovering something new about myself through the magical practice of yoga. I realized as the day went on that I’ve been angry. Angry. And that’s ok, so long as no one’s tooth is involved in my manifestation of it. Today’s practice opened the door to identifying, and working through it. And some really good shit is coming out of all that. Including:

Embrace unpredictability.”

A giant eraser wiped out my weekly routine, not sticking around long enough to erase the tears of shock that initially came with it. But now, two weeks later, I’m taking classes at times I normally would have been teaching, sleeping late enough to see shades of light peek through the wooden blinds, leaving my truck (yes, the irony…) idle instead of joining the buzzed cut road ragers out there to get to the studio on time.

Teach like a human. Not a guru.”

I’ve always loved teachers who share the not-so-yogic parts of themselves in class: an anecdote of what blocked them in their own practice, what pose they too struggle with, where they feel fear. Acknowledging I had anger bound up within me today connected me more deeply to those around me and those I serve. Yes, I get pissed off too, and I get you yogis. We are more alike than different. When I teach again I’ll do it from an even more human, connected state, thanks to acknowledging that I’m working through some anger too.

Perfection is selfish.”

Prior to getting present to my pissed off shoulders this morning, I had a running checklist of when/where/how often/what I’d be teaching by X date (TBD, early enough to look like a ‘perfect’ teacher who took an ever-so-brief break, late enough so as not to fail at meeting said goal). Oh, and make all your poses and transitions perfect enough to impress everyone around you in your ‘student’ status along the way. The result of this perfection pursuit has shown up as a rock garden in my back, and made me realize how f***ing selfish I’ve been in the pursuit. My globe-jumping, overworked CFO husband who can’t put his phone down for fear of missing a corporate fire needing extinguishing has been lovingly pleading for more snuggle time and help with home workouts. My family in Seattle is penciling in dates to catch up with wine, post-Christmas sales, and a stroll along the waterfront of my past during next week’s visit to my hometown. My friends have been asking to please say yes to the cup of coffee I now have time for. My body is screaming – angrily – for rest. Or at least a longer Child’s pose.

So, Rocky fans. Take heart. Get angry, and then get on your mat and learn from it. Soften. It’ll all work out without a fist needing to fly.

 

 

alarm bells and silver linings: a few holiday lessons

“How about you put your passion, sweat, and physical effort into your Christmas tree instead?” my Dad urged on the other end of the phone. “Sit down, relax and have some fun, will ya?”

I’m trying, pops. If only it were that simple. With an all-of-a-sudden giant amount of unexpected free time in the midst of a job shift, I’m trying to find that elusive silver lining inside the granite cloud of uncertainty hovering over my head.

Fundamentally I know there’s silver on the horizon waiting to reveal a glint of hope, and deep down in my heart I knew this when I chose not to continue teaching under new ownership of the studio I’ve been teaching at since moving to Boston over a year ago. But the emotional waves of change, compounded by a recent death in the family, are now oscillating in wild enough degrees to make it impossible to complete a conversation with anyone – even the barista asking if I want room for milk – without a Kleenex at the ready. Yes, I need room for milk, and more room to get a handle on what the year ahead will look like. What the day ahead will look like.

As I’ve said, encountering death has a way of jerking your priorities into line,” – James C. Dobson

Shan and Greg's Mama, 2015

Shan and Greg’s Mama, 2015

Change is hard. Especially unexpected change. My husband’s mama passed away recently, and we attended her service in Lancaster, PA this weekend. What initially felt like a double dose of pain is now beginning to show a flicker of silver, however. Blanketed in the supportive arms of extended family we rarely see and stories shared of how she touched us all, I discovered how much I actually enjoy company, and my nagging tendency to self-sequester. Images on a photo board at the entrance of the church sanctuary chronicling every stage of her life implored me to spend mine wisely. Yes that includes yoga, but not at the expense of other areas that bring me joy. Holding her mama’s hand as a little girl reminded me to stay close to my mama on the opposite coast. Presenting a cake she just baked was a message to celebrate – whatever the occasion. Holding my husband-as-toddler at the beach in one photo, confidently grasping a hunting rifle in another, kissing grand babies and looking out over a ship’s deck – all visual reminders to live multidimensionally in this precious life of mine.

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Facebook messages, texts, phone calls and emails from caring friends I didn’t know I had in the past few days has revealed yet another streak of silver. Offerings to talk to so and so, notes thanking me for how I brought inspiration to the class, invitations to share a coffee and croissant are convincing me I’m on the right path. Even if I have no idea what’s at the end of it. For the first time since moving to Boston I’m exploring new places to practice, new bookstores to troll, new streets to wander. Just two blocks away every house is decked to the nines in icicle lights, blow up Santas, reindeer on the front lawn and an invitation to experience it in all its glory after the sun goes down.

The abrupt shift in income (none cometh through teaching) is challenging me to trust my faith will see me through this transition. God, my love and experience of the practice, and positive outlook will reap the fruits of my labor of love once again. Not sure when, but it will.

There’s always someone who’s got it a whole lot worse than you.” – a past co-worker of mine in Seattle who was always volunteering for one good cause or another

The lovely souls suffering in Syria, homeless folks without food or shelter, animals awaiting loving homes. The list goes on. I’m so blessed, and this shift is getting me present to it.

Christmas cookies for Community Cooks - a volunteer organization

Christmas cookies for Community Cooks – a volunteer organization

Here’s hoping that whatever you’re going through, you’ll keep looking for the silver linings and allow the alarm bells to fade.