Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Lying Down Club

As I compose compelling skin care copy, the blog is supposed to be on hiatus. Despite this, I am inspired to write a response to Angela Jamison’s lovely and recent post called “Rest.” Among writers and bloggers, Angela is one of my favourites. Her masterfully selected words stick with you for a long time.

“Rest.” by Angela Jamison is the perfect complement to "How to Wake Up to Yoga,"and "How to Get Up for Yoga Again."

 (Forgive me if I sound like a bottle of re-hydrating anti-age serum. The syntax has permeated my cells.)
Angela Jamison
Ashtanga Yoga, Ann Arbor
 Says Angela,

“Waking up, check. Around here, we like intensity, sharp focus, and fire. Life on the razor’s edge is sweet and clear. But if you only practice getting up strong, and do not practice going to bed soft, then imbalances can form in the nervous system over the long term. Some of the first indicators of lack of deep rest may be: fuzzy mind, emotional unavailability or reactivity, and susceptibility to illness. In this light, deep rest enables creativity, meaningful relationships, and vibrancy.
Conscious relaxation shows in a person’s bodily tissues, in the personality, and in how she relates with time and with the earth. It is the foundation of Jedi mind training.”

I’ve never had too much trouble waking up early. From the age of seven, the hands of my Mickey Mouse watch directed an extensive routine that involved walking the dog, practicing the violin and writing eloquent letters to my grandparents in Manitoba. These letters came out every single day. With my smelly Mr. Sketch markers, I lovingly decorated the envelopes. Over the years, the morning routine evolved and devolved to encompass grueling swim team workouts, and icy runs with ankle and wrist weights.  
As for sleeping, typically I am not terrible. Early into my Ashtanga days, I stopped consuming caffeine around noon, if not much earlier. Like clockwork, a chai at 12:30 results in mild reverberations extending past midnight. If someone needed a sleep coach, stopping caffeine at lunchtime would be my first piece of advice. Alcohol at any time, and Netflix past 8 p.m., these are also risky gambles. Maybe it is worth it sometimes, especially during family visits. You’ll have to figure this out for yourself.

Many Ashtangis go through a stage of being obsessed with food. Little to no dinner seems to be a trend, the ostensible key to a light and energized practice. I’ve tried this a few times, in Mysore and at Vipassana. Most often it ends with me sitting in the dark, quite hungry.  My body has pretty clear needs, and pretty clear signals. This, I have come to appreciate. Keeps the Divorce Diet in check. The Vipassana People eventually took pity on me. By Day 3, they permitted evening peanut butter sandwiches. By Day 7, they granted me a dinner tray with my name on it, plus after hours fridge access. Everyone is different.
Let’s talk about imbalances in the nervous system. During my seven and a half years of unfailingly waking up for yoga, utter exhaustion definitely came up. In January of 2013, I started a job speaking French to (mostly) three, four and five year olds at a Montessori School. It entailed that I rush out of the house to catch the bus at 7:30 a.m. One hour commute, followed by 8 to 9 hours uttering futile sentences to erratic tiny humans. Before embarking on this high-intensity process, I considered it essential that I crank myself through second series, which meant waking up at 4 or 4:30 a.m. It never occurred to me that maybe I could take it down a notch, in the service of early childhood education. Oh no. Didn’t want to “lose” my practice. Within three months, my coping skills had deteriorated to verge on clinical insanity. My body developed an awkward series of involuntary twitches, replicating a bus driver in anticipation of a head-on collision. My mind became flooded with traumatic memories from the eighth grade. Each night I would wail to the Boatman about some traumatic 12-year-old injustice. Particularly raw was the time everyone on the swim team was invited to Kayla Clark’s fourteenth birthday party. Everyone except for me. After five months at the Montessori School, the left bottom half of my body went out of commission. I cut my practice down to fifteen minutes. The twitches and traumatic memories dwindled almost immediately.

Rest is important. I often wonder to what extent hauling dogged ass at non-negotiable hours in the morning has impeded my long-term healing. So many of my Ashtanga years were spent in a state of mild to severe emotional catastrophe, not to mention unambiguous joint pain. To the emotional catastrophe, my fellow practitioners and various teachers would reply, “Oh, the practice is bringing stuff up. You’re getting into the good stuff. It’s working.” They made it sound as though clarity and peace were just around the corner. Although it was pleasant to believe that my suffering stemmed from an important and profound spiritual cause, I now believe that a component of my spiritually “good stuff” was nothing but simple, inconsolable fatigue.
An essential, and often neglected ingredient: Take Rest Posture. Lying Down Club. Sharath insists that it isn’t savasana. Call it what you like, it has never been my specialty. Too hungry, too horny, too caffeinated, whatever the reason, my lying down efforts joined the miserably pathetic four years ago when I moved to Halifax. Ten seconds, ten breaths. I became terrified of lying down. Sometimes a song would help, as long as pressing play didn’t coincide with examining the interwebs and all that Wifi and cellular data had to offer.

Mr. Iyengar recommended that for every 30 minutes of asana, the yoga practitioner should take five minutes of rest. In Mysore, after approximately thirty seconds, Sharath would send us on our way. “Thank you very much. Take rest at home.”  The committed amongst us wouldn’t stop for a coconut. The rest of us would, and maybe that was that.  
Lie down, take rest. Practice dying. Such a difficult posture. Most of the other asanas, I’ve traded in for this. Give the earth your cells. I got this phrase from a contact improv teacher in Halifax. I went to her class the day I decided to leave. In the end, you can’t keep anything.

I lie down to practice dying, and give my cells to the earth. It feels like everything’s unravelling.
Here are some things I think about when I’m trying to relax:

-Metta: "May all be safe, may all be happy, may all be healthy, may all live with ease."
Funnily enough, I learned this from an elephant journal article. While you’re thinking it, you can pay attention to how your heart feels. I used to do this in front of the yoga shala in Mysore, as I waited for the gates to open.

-Another phrase:
"I’m sorry, I forgive you, I love you, I thank you."

I learned this from Simon, my ex-ex-boyfriend who jumped off a building in January. Simon said that you’re supposed to repeat this phrase, both to your ego, and to the world.  The practice cured Simon in three and a half days. It will take me longer than this.
-The Buddha’s last words to Ananda, who served by the Buddha’s side for fifty years or more. As the Buddha lay dying, he said this to Ananda. It makes me wish my name was Ananda:

“Ananda,” said the Buddha,
“Everything breaks down.
Tread the path with care.
Nothing is certain.
Trust yourself.”

Big love to Angela Jamison. Deep rest for all.
The End.

By Angela at AY:A2

How to Get Up for Yoga Again

Baby Jedi

1 comment:

  1. Regarding dinner, agreed. Everyone is different. I know many people who have half a banana in the morning before practice.

    Regarding caffeine, oh yeah, this is major. I forgot about that.

    I'm so glad to read that rest is happening there. It's quite badass, really.

    Big love, AJ