Finding My Feet

Finding My Feet

From the center of the room, she barks, “Find your feet!” She instructs us to root, firmly down, and to notice the four corners of our feet.  “Find them!” she commands.  I like her barking.  I appreciate it.  Her barking is the equivalent of a bitch-slapping, and this tough girl who has hand-crafted a protective 12-foot brick wall over a number of years of self-inflicted abuse sometimes finds herself in need of a good bitch-slapping to bring her back down to earth and to knock some of the bricks out of her wall.

So obediently, I listen, and I root down, and I find my feet.  “I found them!”  I want to scream and point to my feet to show teacher I’ve done a good job, but I’m a hot mess and doing so seems inappropriate in a 95 degree heated yoga studio full of 40-some other sweat-dripping aspiring yogis who are, just like me, trying to find their way—as well as their feet.

But what is all this talk about “finding your feet?” I mean, I get it…sorta…like the logical explanation…I get it—root down, stay grounded, know where you are, it’s okay to be exactly where you are yadda yadda yadda.

But have I ever felt my feet? Have I ever really felt them, actually supporting me and providing me with other enlightened yogi stuff like that?

Nope.

Not by a long shot.

I mean, I can see my feet, but I haven’t necessarily found them.

Basking in the sunlight of a Florida beach, I stood at the very edge of the shore. The temperature rising in my body, I sought the refreshing cooling therapy of the ocean. The once galloping and charging wave that commenced deeper in the ocean—far out from where a non-swimmer like me would venture– now quietly reached the shore and gently tickled at my feet.  The water spiraled around my toes before returning to the ocean and swiftly taking with her, sand from beneath my feet.

An uncomfortable feeling…

Having the sand swept out from underneath you…

And so I changed my position, having lifted my feet and moving to “higher ground” next to me, where the sand had re-leveled itself.

Ahhhh….much better….solid footing again…

Except it wasn’t solid footing at all.  The dissipated wave now returned, spiraling my toes again, and returning to the ocean again, and swiftly, deftly, taking with her, sand from beneath my feet. Again.

And so I’d move to higher ground.  Again.

Anything to avoid that uncomfortable feeling of what remained when the sand had been swept out from underneath me.

I looked down at my toes and took pause. Wait a minute, I thought, what if I just stay? What will happen if I allow the sand to be swept out from under me? What if I DON’T seek higher ground? What will happen if I just stay?

Where had I heard these questions before???

Cue the barking.

What would happen if I just stayed? What would happen if instead of seeking higher ground, I would find my feet? Would I lose balance? Fall over? Be washed into the vast ocean (which is a real and very scary threat to someone who never learned how to swim)?!?

The answer to all of those questions was clear:

Possibly.

Perhaps dangerously throwing caution to the wind, I said to myself well fuck it…let’s see what happens…

I recollected the commands of my insightful and valued yogi instructors…I rooted down…I noticed the four corners of my feet pressing down into the sand, the sand that would leave me as quickly as it had met me…

And I just stayed.

The sand had pulled away from my heels, leaving my feet in an upright, angled position.

An uncomfortable position.

And I stayed.

I weebled and wobbled.

And stayed.

Terribly inflexible, my feet angled this way caused some considerable pain…

Yet I stayed…

What will happen, I wondered, if I just stay here…if I stay here and just deal with the discomfort…if I just deal with the pain….what will happen?

Another dissipated wave came, and it too, swept even more sand out from underneath me, causing even further discomfort and further pain.

And I stayed.

I kept my feet there, but I re-positioned my hips, allowing one side to bear the brunt of my weight, and then shifting it to the other, allowing the other side to bear the similar burden of my bodyweight.

Hmmmm that’s not too bad. I’d discovered that re-positioning my body instead of removing my feet would deliver comfort, a different comfort than if I had removed my feet, but a comfort nevertheless.

Soon another dissipated wave came, over and over—you know the drill by now…but then I looked down at my feet again…

My toes were curling into the sand, gripping at the sand, clinging to it. Instead of trusting my re-positioning, my toes wanted to play anchor. They were gripping so tightly, eventually even cramping because I was hanging on so tight.

As quickly as I noticed my clinging…

“WHY ARE YOU GRIPPING? WHY ARE YOU CLINGING?!?” bark bark bark.

I let go.

And guess what?

I didn’t fall over.

Feeling encouraged by my new-found discovery and more confident, I wondered, what will happen if I go another 10 feet further into the ocean? Can I find my feet there, too? Can I stay? Can I find my anchor? Will I be able to root down? Can I allow myself to stop gripping? To stop clinging? Will I allow myself to let go?

Cautiously, I tip-toed further, and the waves grew more rapid and violent, stirring water around my shins this time.

The sand shifted. It came. It went.

And I stayed.

Over and over again, wave after wave,

And

I

Stayed.

And the most interesting thing happened after about fifteen minutes of just staying….and allowing for the discomfort…

The sand anchored my feet.  One might say the sand “buried” my feet, but this optimist would suggest that the sand now supported my feet, enveloping my ankles and holding me in such a way that I did not have to shift my weight from one hip to the other; instead, I was held by something greater and more powerful than myself.

I found my feet!

And bricks are being broken, and walls are falling down.

 

Un-stucking the Rut

Un-stucking the Rut

I never thought I would say this…

But after weight training for almost 30 years, I AM FINISHED.

I hate it.

For those readers who have followed me for quite some time, this is probably shocking news.

Training with weights has been an important part of my life, and it has helped me to reach a number of personal goals.  But recently, I got fed up; disenchanted with what I was doing; and I realized that it was time to move on.

Continue reading “Un-stucking the Rut”

Happy Babies and Flying Pigeons

Pfft,  yoga.  I’m NOT doing yoga.  I’m not doing all that stretchy crap and “om shit.”  And those women who take yoga? Ew.  Not me.  They’re into all that organic stuff and Buddha and Lululemon and they only drink Voss water and they will NEVER want to associate with someone like ME!

I’ve been a gym rat since I was 15.  My high school basketball coach got my teammates and I started on a weight training program back in the 80s, which was kind of revolutionary for back then.  I started on Nautilus equipment for a time and then eventually moved to free weights (Big Girl Toys!).  But I was hooked from that first workout.

Over the years, I got more set in my weighted ways, and I got more and more engrossed in lifting, challenging myself to move heavy weights that most women (and most men, probably) even half my age couldn’t move.

My ego started to take over as I became more fixated on the poundage that I could lift rather than how my body felt or how it responded to the weights I was lifting.

Over time, I was finding that my body, especially my back and hips, were incredibly achy.  At just over 40 years old, I was having a hard time getting out of bed.

But this continued for quite some time.  I’d ignore the pain and just pound the weights.

Until I couldn’t anymore. 

In the PYP Studio, readying to get my Zen on!
 A friend dragged my ass to yoga one day.

Yes, yoga.

At first, I resisted, thinking all of the aforementioned.

And now?

OMG!

I attend a restorative yoga class taught by Kerry Bestwick at PYP Studio.

Talk about disspelling every single myth I believed about yoga.

First of all, it’s not “om-y.”  I don’t sit there, humming and praying to the spirits or gods or whatever.

Restorative yoga is more about, well, restoration.  Yes, it’s stretchy, but it focuses on lengthening my achy body parts.  When I leave there, I feel like I’ve given myself a massage.

Second of all, “these women” ARE just like me.  They each have a story– some of them a very painful one.  Maybe some prefer organic foods and some wear Lululemon, but so what?  I’ll eat organic foods, I’m just not attached to them.  And I’m a Nike and UnderArmor whore, so what’s the difference? Maybe one costs more than the other, but who cares? I’m still a label freak.  Maybe not one of my finer qualities, but hey– we all have our vices.  And I’ve not seen a single bottle of Voss.  Instead, everyone, just like me, brings in their plastic RubberMaid bottle that they probably found on sale, just like me, at the grocery store.

And yes, “these women” associate with the little old likes of me.  In fact, after a few months’ hiatus, a number of women– and the teachers– were so welcoming when I’d returned.  Many remember my name and have asked how I am doing.  They show an interest.

Not only have the myths been dispelled but the benefits I have acquired have been insurmountable.  The poses have even helped with my lifting, as my hips have loosened, thus improving my ability to squat and deadlift.

But perhaps even overshadowing ALL of that is how yoga has impacted my mind.  Kerry is an exceptional “therapist” as yoga instructor.  When she puts us through the poses, she talks to us.  I’m sure there’s some yoga word to describe what she’s doing, but in my terminology, she simply offers a healing sermon or lecture or talk.  I don’t even know what to call it, actually.  But she calms me down.  She helps me to stop, breathe, and remember that all I can control is my breath.  She helps me to focus, to see the bigger picture, to not get so fixated on the minutiae of daily life. Her practice has been integral to my own healing– both physically and mentally.

I still don’t know what an “asana” is, and I don’t know who the Yoga Gods are, and I always thought my Third Eye was Blind (hehehe), but I do know this: change is good.  It’s good to challenge your preconceived notions.  It’s good to keep an open mind about things you don’t understand. I can still hit the weights, but adding yoga is just as strengthening. 

Namaste.