Like every other soul on this planet, I go through periods where everything narrows and turns exhaustive. Familial demands mount, an illness strikes, a relationship breaks down, or a friendship starts to circle the drain. Sometimes I juggle too many things and burn out in a furious, meteoric manner. Boom! Other times, I can’t get a handle on a professional situation that has gone so sideways it makes my head spin in an exorcist-like fashion.
One common denominator, without a doubt, is giving out way too many fucks for things that, in the grand scheme, don’t matter. I get pulled into the unnecessary drama. I don’t take care of my needs. (Did I eat lunch today? Of course, I didn’t.) I forget about the importance of lightness and not getting bogged down in the minutiae. Let’s not even talk about fun and pleasure.
Those are the first things to go out the window.
Normally, I use movement as an outlet to relieve stress or sideline my problems. But there are times when pounding pavement, punching the heavy bag, or stepping on the mat does little to help me reset. I sweat buckets but still feel like I’m drowning in quicksand. If I can’t find a way to offload my frustration, helplessness, or annoyance, I become, frightfully, more incensed.
It occurred to me recently that it’s been a long time since I’ve played. This is especially true when it comes to challenging yoga poses I used to stick on a day-to-day basis. I’ve shied away from arm balances that demand fearlessness, and abstained from inversions that call for composure. I’ve avoided deep stretches that scream at the most inflexible parts of my body to quietly surrender and yield.
Yesterday—after cycling through a few minutes of yogic breathing—it became apparent that my yoga practice had turned into another chore. Like boxing, like running, I do it out of obligation. Delight and play have been replaced by indolence and doubt. I try to get into a pose I have nailed hundreds of times before but feel so little satisfaction or joy that I tend to cut my sessions short.
I asked myself what would happen if I overrode the twin vampires of fear and anxiety, and ignored the incessant blathering of my ego. Although most things sit outside my zone of control, I am still the boss of my perspective. How I think about any given situation is my responsibility. Every time I step on the mat it’s an opportunity to shake things out and let loose. So what if I don’t find my way into a handful of poses? No one is perfect. Not even the most beloved guru.
Every day I can choose to slap a smile on my face and look for the fun. And if I fail? That’s okay. Tomorrow I’ll try again and fail harder. It’s the only way to get better.
It’s how we get things done.
I thought about this as I attempted to thread my legs through my arms. (Which is like slipping a piece of string through the eye of a needle.) Eight-angle pose is a pain in the ass for various reasons but, regardless, I dropped all expectations and turned the endeavour into a game. I gave myself five chances to see if I could nail it.
I hit my head on the mat the first time. On the second, my butt collided with the floor. On the third, I laughed so hard I could barely sit upright. On the fourth, I stopped thinking and pushed away from the ground to hover, blissfully, in astavakrasana.
Those thirty seconds in flight mode were absolute magic.
I moved through the remainder of my practice amused and weightless. Sure, a couple of bruises were already blossoming in aggressive violet and blue hues but, guess what? I didn’t care. Win or lose, up or down, I found a bit of peace by moving this body in the most perfectly imperfect way. On the mat I left everything else where it belonged, which is in the gutter.
I gave myself permission to have fun, and let go long enough to simply play.