I just had a rough two weeks of health challenges, the perfect confluence of issues rendering me motionless and then speechless on my couch. Being a yogi and a generally active person, slowing down to a stop was not only unpleasant, but nearly impossible.
As a full-time yoga teacher, I’m accustomed to devoting my physical, mental and spiritual energy into what I do six days a week. I love every second of it. Even when I’m on vacation I miss teaching, so being truly unable to teach threw me for many loops that ultimately taught me some valuable lessons.
I lost my voice for a full week. Seven days of a painful whisper. It sucked. I succumbed to frustration in a deeper way than I anticipated and I found this bad combination of resistance and irritation: I desperately wanted to feel well, NOW, and I was annoyed that I wasn’t handling it gracefully. I was a petulant child about it, quite frankly, mostly in my head (and almost entirely on my couch).
So, I felt strongly, during the midst of my utter disregard, the lessons I instill in my students rearing their ugly heads over and over again. I felt the importance of practicing what I preach and remembering that I am always a student of life, learning big and small lessons every week. And these lessons felt profound.
Some helpful tools to keep in mind when experiencing negativity of any kind:
Let yourself be loved and cared for.
Why would I accept these very unpleasant and unproductive circumstances? Difficult question, easy answer: There's no other choice. I can't will my way out of any condition my body is currently undergoing. I’ve written it before, and I’ll keep repeating it until the day I die: What we resist persists. We must surrender in order to transcend.
Let yourself be loved and cared for. Even the soft embrace of my dogs kept my heart beating strongly. Accepting love during your tough days is pivotal. Let it all in.
Breathe all the time.
I'm a huge mascot for breath; ask any of my students what my priorities and passions are as a teacher, and they’ll certainly mention the breath. I find it pivotal in restoring equanimity, especially after a bad day, but I found it incredibly challenging to remember this tool when I felt like utter death for those few days.
Once I accepted my current condition, my breath reminded me over and over, this too shall pass. And it did, thanks in part to the conscious rise and fall of each inhale and exhale.
Feel grateful, especially on the shitty days.
I speak of this often in class. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude every moment, whether painful or pleasurable, keeps us from pitying ourselves. Believe me, when I feel really down, really somber, or really sick, I can easily fall into that pitiful little trap. But that's an unhelpful, vicious cycle that only keeps us in that negative state longer.
When we keep gratitude as a priority, we not only recognize the inherent unpredictability and inevitable change laced through each of our days, but we also understand that we all experience this and we all get through it.
Stop being so sarcastic.
I love to talk, laugh, sing and emote! I’ve come to appreciate this rather than rolling my eyes at it but through studying yoga, the chakras, and what it means to live a balanced life, I feel more and more how important it is to not only speak our truth but to truly hear the truth from others as well.
I love to have a sarcastic retort, a quick quote from a funny movie or show, and while choosing to be silent, there were many opportunities missed to add my two cents. Big whoop. I started to ask myself how much of what I say is necessary and how much is just my ego’s need to project, to fill a moment, to exert my personality into the room. I really loved listening without any pressure or need to respond.
My friends and students found it very odd to be around me this way and it felt somewhat encouraging that they missed my voice. But after that long week, I find myself being more acutely aware of how well I’m listening and of the quality in the words I choose to speak.
Time is a gift best not wasted.
I think if I were to combine all the previous lessons into one big picture, it would be to keep some perspective. Of course I knew throughout those tough couple weeks that many of my fellow human beings have it worse, whether it's because of their physical condition, the circumstances surrounding their lives, their support system — you name it. When I felt sadness and guilt over missing class, that’s when I slapped myself and tried to regain perspective.
It’s important to remember that we’re all feeling the pangs of struggle and strife on a daily basis. We all want to be happy, want to feel good, want to love. Sure, some of us have it a little easier with circumstances that help cushion the falls and make the climb to success more accessible, but in the end, money or no money, perfect health or bedridden, we all experience pain and hardship. No one knows what it’s like to walk in your shoes, just like you haven’t a clue what it’s like in theirs. Understanding this can make life’s challenges come and go more smoothly, feeling closer to our fellow human beings rather than further apart.
We can't possibly predict what will take us away from living, either for a fragment of time or for good. So we’d better take advantage of every healthy moment we have. Sing, dance, laugh, love, and whatever else makes you feel the swell of enthusiasm each day. Time is a gift best not wasted. Get to lovin’ and livin’.
I wish you all health and happiness, and a little dose of the above for those tough days in between.