Personal · Writing · Yoga

On balance.

This is my weekday morning routine:

– Wake up at 5 am and head to my yoga studio. (If awake, read on the train. If stuck in zombie mode, sleep.)

– Chant. Practice. (Remind myself: Don’t rush. Don’t rush my practice. Don’t rush to finish resting at the end. Don’t rush through talking to friends. Be grateful to have my yoga family; be graceful about sharing time and energy and love and patience.)

– Get my butt out of the studio and to my morning writing spot. Buy breakfast but don’t eat it. (Yet.)

– Sit down, open the computer, get to work. (People often ask me if I find myself zoning out or struggling to settle into the story right away. It used to happen more often. Now it only happens if I’m extremely sleep-deprived. The brain is like a muscle, and writing every day has trained me to be able to sit down and immediately be “in the mood” to write.)

– When my alarm goes off at 8:50, back up the writing and head into the office to start the work day (and actually eat my breakfast).


I love the strictness of this schedule, and I thrive on it. Except when I don’t. Like how for the past couple weeks my body has decided to throw some terrible pain my way. Pain in my back, pain in my leg, pain in my ankle, pain in my wrist. Unexplainable. No true physical injury — and I’ve been injured enough times to be certain of that.

I went to yoga and tried to push through the pain. I grit my teeth and endured it, day, after day, after day, after day…until there came a breaking point. I hadn’t been sleeping enough, and I had been stressing too much, and I ended up having a meltdown at the yoga studio. Which is pretty damn embarrassing. I like to believe I have all my shit together, and part of that believing is pretending it’s true even when it isn’t.

Lacey (my ashtanga teacher who has been subbing in for Michael) had me sit down while she talked me through it all, while I tried very inarticulately to explain that it felt like my entire body was falling apart, that yoga had been — for the longest time — the way I battled and controlled all the ridiculous physical problems I had. Why was it suddenly failing me? It made no sense that I couldn’t even do Surya Namasakar A without excruciating pain shooting up my wrist.

(Like what the hell, body? If I can’t even do Surya Namasakar A, don’t even think about doing my hour and fifteen minute practice that currently ends with me balancing the entire weight of myself on my wrists. Plus headstand. I don’t even want to think about what might’ve happened if I’d tried to do a headstand in that state.)

Lacey told me that if I’m not getting enough sleep, I need to rest. If my body is hurting for no apparent reason, it’s most likely stress. These are things that I knew but had forgotten. It’s so easy to forget.

I hate resting. It makes me feel lazy, and it makes me feel like I’m being punished. I also hate when pain in my body forces me to have to adjust how I do a specific asana, or how I take vinyasa. It feels like cheating. It feels like a step backwards.

But these feelings are crazy. I write out the above sentences and I look at them and I can say yes, I see, they are crazy. Though that doesn’t stop me from feeling them. I have to remember: When I have to rest, I have to rest. When I have to adjust, I have to adjust. Where the hell do I get off trying to judge myself for something I clearly very much need?

When it comes to my writing, it’s just as bad. (Possibly worse.) If I haven’t produced enough writing in a day. If I haven’t solved the structural puzzle I’ve been stuck on. If I feel — for whatever reason — like I’ve been slacking (which might be choosing to have dinner with a friend rather than spending the night in and writing, or letting myself read another hundred pages of a book rather than writing, or even watching a half-hour television show instead of writing — you get the point), it ends with me super pissed at myself.

And then I noticed: this has been a shitty couple of weeks for yoga, but, surprise surprise, my writing is flowing fantastically. I’m in one of those peak phases where it almost feels like this new draft is just writing itself. I just sit down and the words flow out. (It’s probably not going to last much longer, so here’s a reminder to myself to remember this moment and this feeling. When I’m in my next pit of despair I’m not allowed to whine and tell my husband that the entire novel is shit. It’s not. A lot of it is, of course, being a new, from-scratch rewrite. But there’s stuff in here I can definitely work with.)

When one aspect of my life gets all rich and heavy like this it’s easy for me to forget that I’m not balancing everything else well. Especially when it comes to writing — if my writing is going well it’s so easy for me to trick myself into thinking all the rest is just peachy. It’s like each thing I try to maintain in my life is one ball in my juggling act, but when my writing ball is flaming so brightly and beautifully I focus too much on it and accidentally drop the other balls. Not cool, self. If I drop all but one then I’m not actually juggling. I’m just burning myself with a stupid flaming ball in my hands. Now this metaphor has gone on for too many sentences.

Back to yoga. I remember trying to put myself into bakasana (crane / crow pose) for the first time over a year ago, and thinking I was never going to be able to master that balance. And I remember the first time I was able to actually get it, to find the angle where my weight was evenly distributed enough that I could hold myself on my hands. I remember that incredible thought: I’m actually holding this. I’m not falling. But even now, I’m not able to get the balance every time. The more I practice, the better I get.

I need to do the same with life outside the yoga studio. Practice balancing. Don’t beat myself up. Adjust as necessary. Let myself rest for long enough that it’s actually effective. Self care. Self care. Self care.

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