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The allure of the snooze button is a microcosm of my life, determining and asserting my priorities.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST ANNA GUEST-JELLEY
There’s something about us that loves secrets, isn’t there? Whether it’s the thrill of a trusted confidence from a friend or keeping part of ourselves back from others, it’s there.
Despite this, there’s something about yoga that calls us to telling the truth–to others, but mainly to ourselves. The practice of continuing to come back to our bodies lays many of us bare. My tight shoulders are still there every morning. They remind me of how I have, as one massage therapist once told me, literally carried the weight of my world on my shoulders for years. Even though they are no longer one unmovable mass as they used to be, their opening process is still slower than a snail’s. This is, of course, because this is not a primarily physical endeavor.
Why spend time in the present?
Every day that I come to the mat, I face my fears. I debate going into inversions and backbends because a few times, years ago, this triggered migraines for me. While I certainly need to honor and listen to my body, I also know that shutting something out and off completely isn’t the answer.
Each time I sit on my mat and take a few breaths, I’m confronted with the present. The present is something I usually prefer to ignore. Why spend time in the present when there’s always the promise of something shiny in the future to distract? Or something to ruminate over in the past? Time has smoothed out present avoidance patterns in my body like well-worn rocks. It has done such a good job, in fact, that I rarely recognize it as anything but the truth.
That is, until every time I lay down for Savasana. Relaxing into the support of the floor, I notice how my instinct is to contract instead of release. To make a grocery list in my mind instead of let go. To control – my body, my food, my friends and family, my life – instead of let loose. To avoid social situations instead of risk looking foolish.
A cure for amnesia
Every day I encounter Down Dog like it is my first. My hamstrings are tight, my heels are nowhere near the floor, and I let out an internal groan between pleasure and pain. As Michael Stone points out in Awake in the World: Teachings from Yoga and Buddhism for Living an Engaged Life, “We know mind and body are one, but we wake up every morning with amnesia. This is why we practice.”
Each time I come into Warrior II, I have to decide how close I’m willing to bring my thigh to parallel to the ground. Can I do it? Yes. Do I want to? Often no. I find the same to be true when in the midst of a binge. Through therapy and lots of time, I’ve learned some tools to confront my eating disorder – even in the moment. But I often choose the seemingly easier route of ingrained habits.
Every day when I awake, I face the allure of the snooze button or getting onto my mat with my stiff, morning body. This choice is a microcosm of my life: determining and asserting my priorities. Honoring rest when needed but also holding myself accountable to what helps me feel grounded throughout the day.
Each time I practice, I remember Michael Stone’s wise words anew that
… the direction of this practice points back to each one of us. This body and heart are not only what we study but also what we use as tools for living an engaged life. This body and heart can be tools for peacemaking.
Each moment, each day, I feel this more and more.
Anna Guest-Jelley is an advocate for women’s rights by day, a yoga teacher by night, and a puppies’ mama all the time. She is making her way through life with joy, curves and all. Visit her at her website Curvy Yoga and on Facebook and Twitter.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.