Yoga is not a competitive sport, nor is there any shame in relaxing into Child’s Pose when a posture becomes too strenuous. But even though I’ve been practicing yoga for seventeen years, there still are times when I find this difficult to remember—times when I glance around the studio as I’m setting up my mat and make mental notes about the relative fitness of my classmates in order to see where I rank in comparison. If I judge myself not to be the least in shape and/or chubbiest, I take it as a personal victory. If I am, it’s a great reminder to practice loving kindness. And maybe some day, if I keep on practicing it, I won’t feel the need to rank myself at all.
So I was proud of myself yesterday, when I walked into a yoga class I’d never been to before—in southern California, no less!—and snagged myself a spot right up front. If my fellow classmates wanted to judge me, so be it. Though anyone distracted by my flabby parts should probably spend a little more time (soft)focusing on their own practice.
It was a blissful class, and afterwards, I was happily surprised when two of my classmates complimented me on my practice and asked how I learned to do Crow. Because these two gorgeous 20-somethings with 0% body fat couldn’t do Crow Pose and I totally could! Not that I’m judging anyone.
In Ashtanga yoga, the term drishti refers to a point of focus where your eyes can rest instead of wandering. It’s a soft-focus gaze, the point of which is not to concentrate on a specific object, but to eliminate distraction. And just like staring at something and taking in its detail would draw your focus outward, away from your practice, shutting your eyes would draw your focus in, which, as we all know, comes with its own set of distractions. Like so much in yoga (and in life) drishti is all about balance.
Which brings me to my analogy of the day.
For me, good writing comes from the same place as drishti—you look at your work too hard and you’re lost in the details, you rely too much on the subconscious and your writing’s not grounded. So my advice to all you writing yoginis out there is to step back and give your writing a soft-focus gaze. Just like in yoga, it takes practice to find the right balance, but the moment you achieve it, all of the searching and strain suddenly falls away. Just like in yoga, some days it comes naturally and effortlessly, and other days it does not. In fact, just yesterday I was in yoga class repeatedly reminding myself to let go of all conscious thought and be in the now when I came up with the idea for this blog post. 😉
We live in a non-stop world and it’s easy to get stuck on the hamster wheel of work, kids, school, laundry, and other Things You Have To Do, and to forget about carving out time for self-care. And no, busy moms, going to the supermarket without kids doesn’t qualify.
Self-care is about honoring one’s need for relaxation, a word that surprisingly can still be found in modern dictionaries. For me, sometimes this means going away to Kripalu for a weekend of yoga, other times it’s just a short hike with my friends, or going to get a massage, or deciding to read my book when I find myself with an hour in the house alone, instead of, say, unloading the dishwasher.
This past Sunday, my friends and I had our first annual Spa Day, though some of us now refer to it as our first monthly Spa Day. Spa Day was inexpensive, easy to organize, and we left feeling relaxed, renewed, and refreshed.
If you have friends and access to a house, you too can create your own spa day! Here is our recipe, but feel free to improvise.
10 Easy Steps for Creating a Do It Yourself Spa Day
- Find a friend to host, preferably one with a lovely sun-filled home, good Pandora stations, and a fire burning in the wood stove.
- Ditch husbands and kids
- Find a hair stylist and massage therapist to come to the house to offer hair-cuts and 30-minute massages. Trust me, they do house-calls. (Sierra and Leah, you are goddesses!)
- Get everyone to bring pedicure stuff (including large bowls for foot-soaking, bath salts, and bath stones for a mini foot massage effect).
- If you have a friend with a juicer and she’s willing to work it to create yummy concoctions for you, take her up on the offer. Especially if she has a fondness for ginger.
- Get everyone to bring smutty magazines. If someone shows up with a copy of Harpers or the New Yorker, tell them their kind isn’t welcome here.
- Feast on a pot-luck of delicious, healthy, nourishing foods. (The abundance of local in-season produce we had in our meal made my heart smile).
- Don’t forget to move. This isn’t a training session for the triathalon, but it’s nice to do a little yoga or get outside and take a walk.
- Return home to your family (who didn’t actually miss you) and to your work (that didn’t get done, and the world somehow managed not to completely fall apart) a little more sane.
- Rinse, repeat.