“Did you do any yoga while you were away?” my teacher asked me. I gave a ambiguous response — confused, not quite believing this was a real question.
“So what exactly did you do while you were away?” this time from my boss, and I gave a slightly more considered answer, because after all he had championed me being allowed to take an anomalously long period of leave, permitting me a whole month off.
“Did you get done what you wanted to?” several friends have asked. They know me well, they know I had Big Ideas about how I might use a whole month to myself. And their question is far harder to answer. I’m still assessing. Did I?
My overall aim was to support Hubby in his work (the reason we were a month in Athens anyway) and have a break from my own work. It was also an exciting opportunity to devote some longer time to various aspects of my yoga practice, without all the mundane constraints of everyday life. And because I’m a planner professionally and personally, I wrote myself a list of what I might do. I thought it would be help me find some focus. Sanskrit, philosophy, anatomy, writing, teaching prep…
As time sped up towards the end of my time away, I came to review my ambitious to do list slightly anxiously and in a low moment I concluded — no, I hadn’t done what I wanted, since I’d only really got half way through any of the things I’d noted down for my yoga study.
Feeling frustrated, I put the list away. It only reflected one aspect of the value of my personal time after all. Instead I took some quiet time to consider things a different way, less tangibly or less intellectually. And when I sat in reflection, there was definitely a sense, a whispering beneath the shouty criticism, that there was some deeper learning and some moments of more profound recognition. Difficult to put into words, but compelling nevertheless.
Asana practice was obviously really interesting, in a different place, with more time and energy. Longer practices were amazing and I pretty much practised daily, but took rest days when I needed to. I was really able to pay attention to how I was feeling and when I felt tired, had my period, or got a cold I could rest in a way usual life doesn’t seem to permit. Or does it…? Now I wonder if I really could behave a little differently back home…
But aside from the excitement of the new asanas I found myself working on (amusingly asana practice wasn’t on my to do list in any way, certainly no checklist of poses to ‘attain’!), it was far more interesting to look beneath these shapes and consider the quality of my practice in a different way. All the while I felt quite intensely that I was tiptoeing a delicate path between allowing myself to be as I am and challenging myself to be gently daring, to fully allow myself to be all that I could be. I hung between these opposites, feeling the push and pull in all my thoughts and activities — as much as I noticed this sensation physically in my body during asana practice. Each posture and each transition seemed rather scarily but quite wonderfully supported through subtle tensile forces. Fragile and fleeting, but somehow also solid and intrinsic. And promising much.
I felt (slightly grandly 🙂 ) that I was beginning to inhabit my yoga a little more deeply. I began to glimpse something of the stability I seek in myself, the courageous heart I’d like to have, the secret joy that I can permit myself. In short I started to believe there could be an OK-ness with being. Deeper than my habitual sense of lonely separation, there was a feeling of some connection I can’t quite articulate. Connection with….? Just a feeling of a subtle thread drawing everything together, holding it in a relationship, holding me in a relationship…A relationship to….? Ah, I don’t know.
I don’t know yet.
Small steps, also something of a giant leap. I have nothing to show for it and it certainly didn’t appear on my to do list. But if I’d framed my month by a sankalpa rather than SMART objectives, a heartfelt desire rather than a checklist of activities, I might have tried to describe this kind of feeling.
So I think for a month’s work, this seems pretty good going.
My practice doesn’t deliver me any sense of peace easily.
One of my yoga buddies who follows my IG feed joked with my yoga teacher in response to his question about my time away: “Actually, it looks as though she did nothing but yoga”.
Not really true. If my to do list had included such things, I’d also tick off that I caught up with all the old friends I expected to and a few bonus ones I didn’t anticipate seeing, I visited the sites and museums I really wanted to, I enjoyed some great live music, I ate and drank my body weight in spinach pies and Greek coffee. I felt (physically, intensely) how much I missed my friends back home and realised how good their company is for me. I slowed my habitually rushed walking pace down to Mediterranean speed. I followed tortoises nosing through the wildflowers, I hung about watching the evzones marching up and down a nearby street (fascinating!) so much that I feared being arrested as a terrorist suspect, I basked in the spring sunshine surrounded by the scent of pine trees and eucalyptus (yes, possible even in Athens!). And on our last night I sighed at the full moon hanging low and beautiful over the Acropolis rock.
I allowed myself to enjoy all these things.
This too is a practice for me.
And I started to feel an OK-ness with being, with being me, with being in the world.
Perhaps the touchstone of this rather vague sense is that back on the mat my Tadasana starts to feel like a positive statement rather than a battleground. And regular readers will know how much I hate Tadasana…
So I offer you a little vignette of my time away (because someone asked for pictures) 🙂