Thinking on my feet

Since seeing a physio about my hamstring, I’ve been following her advice:

physio notes

  1. conscientiously doing my exercises
  2. patiently resting from asana practice
  3. and awkwardly attempting to minimize time spent sitting.

I thought stopping asana practice for a while would have the greatest impact on my life. Actually I’m surprised by how cheerfully I’ve been able to comply with this. But on the other hand I’ve only been resting for just under a week, so even my limited patience hasn’t been tested too far! Yes, I miss class and my home practice a lot in different ways, but I’m kind of assuming I won’t need to take too much time off. If it turns out to be more than 2 weeks, I know I’ll need to dig into a whole new level of acceptance.

For now I tell myself it’s just an asana holiday. A mini-break really.

The more tricky aspect is how to minimize the amount of time I spend sitting each day. And since the physio was clear this was the number 1 important thing that would give my hamstrings the best chance of recovery, I’m taking it seriously.

In my professional life, unless I’m in a meeting, I’m pretty much chained to my desk. So sitting less is difficult. In fact for desk work I’d say it’s impossible unless I (ask my company to) invest in a standing desk, so meeting-time weirdly offers the most potential. Colleagues have been pretty understanding, with one of them even standing with me for a full hour of a project meeting! But 6.5 hours of meetings on a single day last week was seriously tiring, even if I didn’t quite stand the whole time. It certainly gave fresh meaning to ‘thinking on your feet’. In some ways I felt more switched on and actively engaged — as well as more impatient with slower-thinking/talking colleagues! I can kind of see why some companies regularly have standing meetings as a way of keeping the agenda focused, but one colleague of mine described my behaviour as a ‘unilateral standing meeting’ so I don’t think I’ll be starting a trend anytime soon.

In my personal life I have more choices, so things are interesting rather than difficult.

I usually sit to eat meals – good mindful practice to focus on your food and the act of eating. Now I opt for breakfast standing in the kitchen. But of course you can still be mindful standing up! It’s not about your physical posture of course, it’s just about maintaining focus on the present moment. Though I draw the line for dinner – sharing a meal with my husband at the end of a working day is important to sit for and savour the food and the companionship.

I’m not a big TV watcher, though I do like to read (and not always about yoga!), so I’m choosing to lie down on a sofa or rug on the floor for that in the evenings. This takes me back to my childhood when sprawling on the floor was normal. And presumably (unless I’ve got seriously rosy-tinted glasses) it was much more comfortable for my younger body than I’m finding it now. So almost as humbling as asana practice then.

For meditation I prefer to sit, so I’m also using this time as an opportunity to explore other practices. I’ve always resisted meditating lying down. It feels uncomfortably passive to me, plus there’s always the likelihood of dozing off that makes me feel like a failure — even although I know that’s not the point. So I’m not enjoying it, but it’s giving me a different perspective, and that’s a good thing. Also I’ve made a point of re-introducing some walking meditation into my day. I used to do this regularly in my lunchbreak, and it’s nice to flex my workplace discipline and remember how valuable it is to pause for some moments during the working day — rather than lunch sitting at my desk.

Other than these changes to my regular routine, my social life has been interesting this past week. Standing up at a party felt pretty normal, until everyone else sat down! A four hour train ride was a challenge, but quite an interesting one. I was fascinated to feel how actively my leg muscles had to work to keep me balanced and upright on a moving train. So I used some of this time to tune into those sensations and to remind myself how much of my body was working OK and be grateful for that, rather than obsessing about the little bit that was having some trouble right now. And standing in the vestibule presented a lot of small moments of interaction with fellow travellers who used me as a handy train information service! Finally a family birthday lunch got me a slightly less sympathetic audience than my work colleagues (that’s families for you!) but afforded me ample opportunity to volunteer for fetching and carrying to the table and for washing up! Can I call this karma yoga??

And after so long standing today, I confess I’m sitting down to write this post, and positively enjoying it, because it feels like a luxury or a treat I’ve earned. Perhaps when I’m back with my asana practice, I can carry this experience on and stop viewing tadasana as an annoying interruption to movement that surely yoga teachers only introduce as a test of patience! There’s definitely much more going on in a still standing pose than I’d ever noticed before.

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