Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday me! I’m 40 today. I thought I’d get the number out of the way up front. If I say it quickly enough, maybe we won’t any of us notice it…

My day started beautifully across town in my home yoga studio. My first two-hour class in a long while. Perhaps even the first of the year. I took it very steadily with the aim of total and utter ahimsa to my hamstring tendon. So that means challenging it a weeny bit, but not demanding too much. Difficult to restrain myself, but I’d gone in with some ‘rules for self’ and that made it easier to keep the old ego under check. I made sure to rest in between asanas or sequences, but I’m afraid most of this time was spent grinning goofily and enjoying everyone else’s movements rather than practicing any ‘withdrawal of the senses’. I usually try to use my resting time in class to keep concentration on my breath and make the resting a part of my practice. But today let’s say I was practicing YS I.33, the one about taking delight in the happiness of others (“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness”). My teacher even indulged me and got my fave track into the playlist [thank you, if you’re reading — I won’t ask again for another 10 years!] and I sat singing along softly to myself in a little happiness bubble while everyone else did as they were told and worked on padmasana setup.

Whatever the skill or depth of my practice today, I was just very pleased to be in class. And not just because of my recent hamstring problems. I reflected a little as I sat quietly after class that this is such a massive contrast to my 18th that I can’t really feel too ambivalent about the passing years.

s-l1000Back then my heartfelt wish (though not expressed to anyone at the time) was that I might have as a gift one of those walking aids the elderly have. You know what I mean? With wheels and a basket for your stuff, and a little padded seat that folds down. At that time in my life I was pretty sick and I was so little confident in my energies and my ability to keep going when I was out and about that having a seat I could take anywhere and something to lean on that would take the strain for me sounded just great.

And then I thought back to my intentions at the turn of this year. In late December my teacher did a wonderful workshop based around santosha (contentment) and one of our exercises was to reflect back over the past year and consider what didn’t serve us, what we might choose to move on from. For me this was all about considering myself as the sick girl in the room, the one who didn’t quite belong, who shouldn’t really be there, or — yes, I know this is in my mind only — the one who was only allowed in as some kind of pity offering. A severe case of imposter syndrome!

It’s a paradox that being less physically able recently (being hamstrung by my injury — yep, had to get that pun in somewhere!) has actually had the effect of making me feel physically and mentally stronger. The discipline of mind and body required in following phsyio exercises, gradually building up effort, and practicing mostly at home on my own has all made me realize how able I really am in all sorts of ways. Mind and body stronger than ever, even in their weaknesses. Compassion, patience, and honesty with oneself demand immense courage. And I think courage is the Swiss army knife of qualities — it can achieve almost anything if you know how to use it.

And so today, as on any day, I get up from my mat feeling somehow re-created, less weighed down by past experiences and future expectations. Just for a while. But long enough for the world and all its denizens to appear different to my eyes. Beginner brain — at any age!

Now I have a small heap of presents to attend to!

And for you, here’s the wonderful music:

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