Letting Go

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On this day of the autumnal equinox, we welcome the season of fall. There was a bit of a chill in the air during outdoor yoga this morning as our instructor encouraged us to draw energy from the Earth on which we posed – and at the same time, emulate the autumn trees shedding their leaves by letting go.

I’ve seen this metaphor quite a bit this year, and it’s a lovely image. The trees let go of their leaves, returning them to the earth where they rejuvenate the soil and nourish the very tree itself. Likewise, our minds and hearts can practice letting go of all that is dead in us: thoughts, prejudices, worries, anxieties, anger and fear.

What a graceful release it can be to let go. In child’s pose, we curl ourselves toward the ground. With every breath we surrender control of our bodies, and in doing so give them renewed energy and peace as we sink into Mother Earth.

It can be liberating to let go. So much of our lives is spent with clenched teeth and held breath. We worry about our children, our health, our finances, the weary world. But as Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:27, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

I once heard the mantra, “Let go and let God.” That simple advice has run through my head many times in days of stress and heartache. If you believe that there is a force greater than yourself, a force for good, you will be able to surrender to that force and stop trying to control everything around you.

I know. Easier said than done. Yet I’m confident that if we can let go of our burdens as the trees let go of their leaves this fall, we will be able to move forward with great joy.

Savasana Among the Trees

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I have practiced yoga in nature before. Sunrise yoga on the beach was a wonderfully relaxing and fun part of a few past vacations. But today I got to practice my asanas under the trees.

My local arboretum holds outdoor yoga classes, so I decided to sign up. The morning was overcast and humid but not exceptionally hot. I found the location, a patio facing an expanse of grass ringed by trees, and put down my mat. Our instructor, Natalie, was young and sweet-voiced, and she encouraged us to take an affirmation card from a pile of them she’d provided. I selected one at random. It said, “Everything I touch becomes a success.” I smiled.

Natalie took us through the poses, all the while encouraging us and reminding us that it’s okay to fall, to not be perfect. The trees presided over our movements, and when I closed my eyes, I could hear the birds chirping. It was one of the most enjoyable yoga classes I’ve ever taken, and I have to believe it was due to the fact that we were communing with nature.

Every yoga class ends with savasana, or “corpse pose.” The complete and total surrender it entails makes savasana my favorite part of the hour. Afterwards, my mind, body, and soul felt rested, yet invigorated. I slowly gathered my things and started heading toward the parking lot.

On the way, I found a fragrance garden with a bubbling fountain. I sat on a bench and enjoyed the quiet gurgling of the fountain, the flowers and plants, and the emergence of sun from behind the clouds.

Like anyone else, I have my share of worries. My mother-in-law is undergoing a surgical procedure as I write this. My senior in high school is immersed in college applications and trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to become. My other children are living their lives in far flung cities across the U.S. But yoga among the trees has given me an inner peace that helps me know all will be well.

After all, everything I touch becomes a success.

No Hurry

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It is a pleasure and a luxury not to be in a hurry.

So often in our frantic lives, we find ourselves hurtling from A to B on our To Do lists, scarcely stopping to take a breath. Our blood pressure rises as we wait in traffic or long lines, knowing that precious minutes are ticking by and the day will all too soon be in our rearview mirror.

Time to take a breath.

This past weekend I was on my own. I could sleep in and stay in pajamas as long as I wanted in the morning. I could while away the hours reading, doing crossword puzzles and binge-watching The Chi (That show deserves a blog post of its own!). I took long walks without the nagging sense that someone or something at home needed my attention soon. And even though I had made myself a fairly impressive To Do list, I was relaxed and in no hurry to complete it.

It’s nice to drop something off at the local dry cleaner and say, “No rush” when asked when I need the item back. It’s lovely to drive when a little bit of traffic or a road closure (We’ve been having many in my small town this summer.) needn’t faze me. It’s wonderful to give my attention to small chores and errands that have been nagging at the edge of my consciousness for weeks.

On Saturday morning, I went to an 8 am yoga class. The theme of the class that day was balance, and most of our poses were designed to help us achieve that balance of body and mind. On my way home from the class, in the spirit of calm it induced, I decided that all prisons should offer yoga classes to their inmates. I can’t help but believe that a regular yoga practice would help diminish anger and aggression in those incarcerated.

Tomorrow life will return to a busier pace for me. My family and household responsibilities will keep me on a more pressing schedule. But I hope to hold onto the peace and calm I am feeling right now when there is no hurry.

Out of My Comfort Zone

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In the past, I was something of a fitness buff. Enticed into aerobic exercise by Jane Fonda and her workout videos, I started regular workouts and was amazed at how much better I felt. Even during pregnancy and after childbirth, I would find ways of keeping fit. Today at age 58, I am proud to say that I am reasonably healthy, am not overweight, and have excellent blood pressure.

But my enthusiasm for hard workouts has waned over the years. High impact aerobics and running have given way to power walks and yoga. Yet I fear that I have gotten a bit too comfortable in my routine. So this weekend I am shaking things up.

I have the great good fortune to be spending four days with my daughter at Canyon Ranch, a health and wellness resort in warm and sunny Tucson, Arizona. At first I planned to content myself with walks and hikes in the desert air and some gentle yoga. But when I arrived and found the variety of choices for exercise, I decided to leave my comfort zone and try new things.

Yesterday I did a Zumba class for the first time. I felt a little clumsy, but the class made me reminisce about my days as a Jazzerciser. It was a lot of fun, even if I didn’t exactly look like Beyonce out there. Today I tried indoor cycling. This would seem to be an easy choice, but my derriere begs to differ. I also pushed myself aerobically much harder than I would have even on my fastest walks. Future challenges I plan to take on include strength training, a posture class, and different styles of yoga. I plan to avoid the Pilates studio, though, because it still resembles a medieval torture chamber, if you ask me.

The other aspect of my health this resort is challenging is my diet. The emphasis here is on portion control and healthy choices without a lot of added fat or sugar. I am finding that I can still enjoy meals and have a little dessert without feeling the need to binge on unhealthy snacks. I am hoping this realization stays with me when I return home and have to prepare meals for myself and my family.

My daughter has been the perfect partner for me in this endeavor. Herself a healthy eater and avid exerciser, she encourages me and applauds my efforts. (She also took that photo of me in the cycling studio.) I feel so lucky to be in this beautiful, warm, and perpetually sunny locale with her. Tomorrow we are going on a hike in the nearby mountains, and I can’t wait to check out the wildflowers and giant saguaro cacti.

Getting away has been a perfect excuse for me to reinvent myself and approach age 60 with a healthy mind, body, and spirit. I hope to keep surprising myself with what I can do when I step out of my comfort zone.