It’s official: my mat and I are getting back together. It’s probably not accurate to say we had totally broken up, but for the last few months, we’ve certainly been estranged.
To be fair, we’ve had a rough year. Last fall, I had an emergency appendectomy and had to stay off my mat for months. Then, when I went back to work, my part-time job was, more often than not, a full-time job. My mat and I would still hang out, but not a lot. What was left of my practice helped me keep it all somewhat together, but we rarely went deep. Not exactly the healthiest relationship.
And then a couple of months ago, the collapsing discs in my neck did their thing. My nerves flared up, my muscles contracted, and I could barely sit or stand, much less get my asana on. Just the thought of any kind of movement terrified me. And while I knew in my heart that my practice would help, I turned away. Over and over again. For weeks.
When it first went down, I called my spine doctor. However, after being told I would have to wait A MONTH to see him, I finally took a friend’s advice (well, many friends’ advice…), and tried acupuncture. Between the needles and the cupping and the herbs and the body work, something clicked. After one session, I had a day of relief. After two, I had three days of relief, and after the third and fourth sessions, I had near complete relief.
Once the pain subsided, I slowed down at work. And with my life/work balance restored, I went back to cooking and eating the way I used to.
And then finally, finally, I went back to my mat.
Lucky for me, my mat took me back.
My practice wasn’t long; it was only about 45 minutes of asana, followed by a good, long Savasana and a delicious meditation. But it was exactly what I needed. It was just me, my mat, and my practice. I followed my inner teacher and gave my body and soul exactly what it needed. And at the end of it all, I nearly wept for joy.
I can’t explain why I so often turn away from what I need. I do this over and over again, and something tells me I’m not alone. In fact, after an informal poll of close friends, I know I’m not alone. That said, my hope is that, at some point, the call of what we need becomes so loud that either we hear it, or the universe whomps us upside the head to make sure we hear it. It’s up to us to decide when we listen, but at some point, we have no choice but to hear. I'm starting to think that listening first, and avoiding the whole "whomp upside the head," might be a better way to go. (I know, crazy, right?) For me, the work is not only to listen to my heart, but also to ACT: to move on right away when something doesn’t feel right, to make time for the friend I haven't seen in far too long, to be present and truly savor each moment with my family, and, yes, to get on the damn mat.
One of my teachers says that the best way to know if your yoga is improving is if your relationships are improving. Yoga is all about relationships, and not just the ones with your hamstrings and with your hips. Yoga is really about your relationships with your family, your partner, your friends, your neighbors, your dog. Through our partnership with the mat, we find the time, the space, and the peace to calm our busy minds. Once the mind chatter quiets, we have room to receive, and in return, room to give. And isn't that what good relationships are all about? A balance of giving and receiving?
So, while we're reunited (and it feels so good), I know that my relationship with my mat and my practice will go through its ups and downs. All great relationships do. Here's hoping that my mat and I keep the communication going, that we never go to bed angry, and that we always have the ability to come back together, even if we sometimes need a break.