Maybe Choose the Uphill

Heads up…I’m about to play devil’s advocate.

A few days ago, after spending a full month mostly inside, I hit a wall. I felt run down, depressed, slow and lethargic. I was mentally foggy and short-tempered. I was even beginning to think I’d caught the virus-which-shall-not-be-named.

I’d taught a full week of yoga classes and a workshop focusing on listening to the inner teacher, and I’d spent so much time on the teaching end of things, I’d stopped practicing.

So on Sunday morning, after sending a teary video check-in to my tight group of mom friends, I followed my own interpretations from the Yoga path. I sat down to meditate. I even followed the three steps I’d been touting all week: I got quiet, felt things out, and got honest.

And I noticed, not long into this meditation, a feeling. It was a physical sensation right in my solar plexus. It felt like a huge ball of energy, an unruly thing that needed to be unleashed. The feeling was big and intense. It felt almost like nausea.

How had I not noticed this until now?

I put on my shoes and got on my bike and started pedaling hard. For 30 minutes I did something I hadn’t done in a month. I worked, sweated, pumped, pushed myself.

It was hard. I was out of shape. But I resisted the urge to take the downhills and instead fixed my eyes on the one sidewalk square that was in front of me. And then the next, and the next.

One square at a time, up the hills.

And when I got home, I found the fog in my mind and body had cleared and the ball of cooped up energy had dispersed. I felt alive in a way I hadn’t for weeks. No virus here.

In Yoga, when we notice something happening in the body like I did, we generally take one of two approaches.

We can….

  • Ride the Wave. In this case we honor what’s going on, and we take the cues from the body/mind and move further in that direction. You’re tired? Rest, relax, sleep. You’re feeling energized? Add some extra Sun Salutations and push yourself further in your practice. You’re sad? Give yourself space to grieve, to feel, to acknowledge.

OR there’s the second approach:

  • Cultivate Balance. In this option, we move in the opposite of what’s happening in the body/mind, in order to bring some balance to our experience. You’re anxious? Let’s try to calm down. You’re depressed? Let’s uplift.

You’re going on five weeks inside and your body feels slow and tired and you can’t stop sleeping and you’re grumpy and irritable and the house is a wreck and you’ve forgotten how to cook and you can’t remember the last time you changed your clothes and you just yelled at your kid that their attitude sucks?

Maybe it’s time for a sweaty, uphill bike ride.

So hear me accurately. I completely support listening to yourself, extending self-compassion, and practicing quality self-care. I do teach Yoga, after all.

Please don’t hear me pressuring you to accomplish more, produce more, create more, or be ruthlessly disciplined during this pandemic.

What I AM suggesting is that it is possible there is a point where we will need to shift from riding the wave to cultivating balance if we want to move with more ease and less suffering through this time.

At the beginning it felt completely appropriate to comfort myself. The words, “Whatever, it’s a pandemic…” were uttered numerous times in our household, followed up by a second drink or cake for breakfast or the dirty dishes left overnight.

It felt right at first to cut us all some slack.

I am only speaking for myself here. But continuing down that slope landed me in a place where I started to feel sick.

And sick is what we’re all trying to avoid here, right?

It’s been a few days now and I haven’t gone on another big bike ride.

I have, however, curbed some of the destructive routines that were starting to make me feel really bad.

It doesn’t need to be perfect. I’m not aiming for impeccable health and radiant vitality. But I’m eating some leafy greens today. Because I’m not voluntarily going down right now. I’m going up, one square at a time.

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