I’ve been doing this 30-day yoga challenge on YouTube. I highly recommend it. It’s free. The instructor is kind of kooky, in a totally fun way. And I like the 30-day structure. It’s very…goal-oriented, which a person like me, who is simultaneously very type A and also easily sidetracked if there are not clear milestones to meet, needs in order to make something a habit.
Almost every video kicks off with the instructor asking whoever is watching to “connect with their intention.” Basically, remind yourself why you thought this video series was a good idea in the first place so you stick with the whole practice. There are a lot of reasons I wanted to get back into the habit of doing yoga regularly. There is the usual and obvious reasons: fitness and general health, stress-relief, etc.
The real reasons for me, though, were tied up with my loss. While I was pregnant last summer, I was doing yoga regularly (along with running and eating ridiculously healthily.) It made me feel happy, energized, uplifted. I felt like I was working toward my goal of a healthier pregnancy and VBAC. When I found out I was miscarrying, I quit. I wanted some time off to veg, watch TV, eat cheetohs. I was angry with my body for betraying me, revolting against healthy living since all the things I’d done to have a healthy pregnancy hadn’t actually helped me achieve that goal.
The next few months sucked health-wise. It took almost 2 months for my reproductive to go back to normal after the actual miscarriage. I got sick every 2 weeks like clockwork for nearly 6 months straight. I lost a ton of hair and a lot of weight. Add to that the concussion I got from the car accident in October, and it just made for a very unhealthy, altogether miserable time. I don’t think the lack of exercise and general lack of interest in my health were necessarily the cause of a lot of these problems–the miscarriage and the car wreck and living with a 2-year-old in daycare are to blame for much of it–but it certainly didn’t help.
When we got back from our trip to Oregon in January, I was tired of feeling like garbage, physically and emotionally. So I started doing yoga again, and this challenge was the perfect re-entry into healthy living.
I finished the challenge over the weekend, and I can already feel a difference. I don’t know if it’s the yoga or the change in perspective, or if it’s just passing time and the end of a run of bad luck, but it’s been a month since my last illness. I feel better physically and lighter in my heart. Yoga gives you some pretty important tools to help you cope with stress. It makes me feel more aware of my body in general, so I don’t do things that can cause pain, like scrunching my shoulders up and keeping my body stiff in one position all day. It also reminds me to breathe. When I start feeling my anxiety or grief ratcheting up, I remind myself to breathe, the deep in and out that sounds like ocean waves. Instantly calming. You can still feel, but it’s harder to be overwhelmed by those feelings.
The other big thing, and maybe it’s the most important thing to me, is that it’s a break from life. It’s a guaranteed 30 minutes where I will stop, breathe, reflect, rest. 30 minutes where I’m not checking work e-mails or cleaning or doing laundry or running errands or taking care of my daughter. 30 minutes for me.
And when the yoga instructor gets to those last few minutes of the practice and moving into “our most precious shavasana,” she’s not joking about the “nap” you get to take at the end at all. How often do you take even 2 or 3 minutes out of your day just to lay there, do nothing, and reflect? To turn off the constant hum of thoughts and busy-ness from every day life, which can take up every inch of space in your head and leave you unable to really think? That’s why shavasana is so important.*
Now that I’m through the challenge, I’m better at reminding myself to pause and take breaks when I need them. To clear my head before I need to think. It’s amazing how important doing nothing is to being able to do anything.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about how the instructor talks about connecting with your intention. I want to bring that sort of intentionality to the rest of my life. There’s not a lot I’m truly intentional about. Most of the time, I’m just doing things, because they’re the things I have to do to get through the day. I don’t really think a lot about why I do them or how I can be more fully present in them. But I should, and that’s something I’m going to work on.
* I love this quote about shavasana. I wanted to share it, but didn’t know how to fit it in. That’s why footnotes are awesome.