One of the best things I have done for my head and heart is to get out of them both and spend time moving my body. I am a bookworm, not an athlete, so it’s taken concerted effort to leave my curled up posture in a comfy chair, book in my lap, and explore the physical world.
I roller skated and rode my bicycle as a young girl. I even climbed trees, but I was still firmly rooted in the realm of the mind—daydreaming and playing pretend as I did those activities. I also danced ballet, tap, and jazz, but my balletic frame was a fraud. Consistently tight hamstrings prevented the leg lifts that are the hallmark of ballet. Moves that came easier to limber dancers who looked less like ballet dancers than I did made me disappointed and frustrated. I sought perfection and compared myself to the others. This head space stole my joy of an otherwise healthy body moving across the practice floor.
When I brought myself to the yoga mat led asana by asana by skilled yoga teachers, I found an appreciation for my physicality taking root. The more time I spent on the mat sweating and breathing and rising to challenges I never dreamed of, the more the fizzy, frenetic voices, stories, and hurts I carried around began to neutralize.
I faced the most challenging chapters of my life on my yoga mat, and it was medicine. I also began taking walks on my lunch hour and these two practices tag-teamed to usher in the state of flow, health, and well-being I enjoy today.
This past week I forced myself away from a crushing amount of work with an empty grocery bag in hand. Walking in the well-appointed neighborhoods near my office is one of the things I missed during the isolation of the past year-and-a-half. I set out braced against the autumnal chill and grateful for the sunshine and the leaves still floating to the ground from their posts above. I was especially delighted by the yards not yet raked whose sycamore leaves spilled onto sidewalks camouflaging them from view. The crunch under my feet took me back to my beloved sycamore tree—the one I climbed one afternoon and lost the courage to come down from on my own—refusing the help of my little sister with arms outstretched above her head determined to rescue me.
I bent down to pick up litter—some that escaped being carried away by the weekly trash collection, others aluminum cans tossed out of car windows and stopped by the curb nearby.
Gingko leaves bright yellow. Persimmon fruit smearing muted peach pulp on sidewalks when stepped on. Bark of sycamore peeled away from the trunk and laying on the ground like a canoe floating in still water. These are the gifts of the present.
I took a few more steps comforted by the susurrate sound under my feet, but also reminded to stay here, now. To resist floating away to those times long ago, the sepia memories that feel so close and so distant at once. To breathe in the fresh cool air of November, to stand straight forcing the curvature of my shoulders hunched over the keyboard to reverse itself.
While injury has kept me off the mat longer than I’d hoped, I carry yoga and its wisdom in my body every day and am better for it…