I woke up on Sunday morning tired in the way that makes your head swim and fills your belly with nausea. I was anticipating a fairly relaxed weekend, but, as uncertain family plans suddenly got the green light, every span of downtime from Friday on became filled with prep work. Those early Sunday hours were no exception.
I dragged myself into the kitchen and began slicing eggplant, a high flame heating the cast iron grill pan on the stove behind me. I was certain that it was only a matter of time before I would cut or burn myself; such things usually happen when I’m working in the kitchen at minimized capacity. I was also certain that the work ahead of me was going to take hours—hours that I didn’t have.
Day 15 of 21: I still had to make it to Pilates (there weren’t any early enough yoga classes) before heading out to spend the holiday with the fam.
By some small miracle, I managed to neither cut nor burn myself. With a little help from the hubby, not only did the eggplant get grilled, but I finished all the remaining prep work for the pizzas I would be contributing to Easter dinner. And I may have smelled of smoke (a drawback to grilling indoors), but I made it to Pilates.
(Gluten-free, vegan pizza for Easter–a special request from my grandmother-in-law, Ma.
Photo courtesy of my husband.)
As I was heading to the studio, I thought to myself how, if we weren’t doing the 21-Day Challenge, there would be no way I would have even considered rolling out my mat that morning. I also noted in my mind that, post-challenge, I would be perfectly content to skip out on days like this. Yes indeed. No need to add more stress on top of stress!
Then I found myself in that familiar purple room with the massive orange flower painted on the wall, blossoming out from behind the Buddha shrine. I settled onto my mat and into my breath. As my mind began to quiet, it occurred to me: This is not stress. My yoga practice is not an obligation. It’s not a calendar entry or an appointment to keep. The time I spend in this studio, on my mat, is a gift that I give myself.
I cannot count how many times my instructors have pointed this out in one way or another. It’s also not an entirely new realization for me personally. That it is a gift is something I feel when I’m there and that I take with me when I leave. No matter what was going on before I entered the studio, I have never walked away wishing that I’d spent that time differently. Not once.
It’s in the hours leading up to class where I find myself distorting the practice into something that it’s not—an obligation, stress. This is the space wherein I so often fail to see the gift that I am about to give myself.
It is a gift to remove myself from my day, physically and mentally, no matter how busy it may be. It is a gift to rest my thoughts, to not think in to-do lists and to suppress the ever-present urge to write recipes and blog posts in my head. It is a gift to move my body, in ways that feel wonderful but also in ways that feel uncomfortable or challenging. No matter how busy, crazy, or downright awful my day has been otherwise, it is always a gift.
As I left Pilates, I softened my intention to skip yoga on future days like Sunday. That morning solidified the realization for me that making the time for my practice does not fall under the category of cramming more into my day. It rests under the same umbrella as taking a break to watch a little TV, ordering out when I’m at a loss for dinner ideas, or occasionally asking Chris to unload the dishwasher. Ultimately, it makes everything less complicated—and it makes my life better.
This morning my yoga teacher shared a quote with us that I can’t remember exactly, but that went something like this:
“If you live according to the mind, you risk enslaving the heart. If you live according to the heart, you risk emancipating the mind.”
My heart thrives in the practice of yoga. From now on, I’m going to live from there.