Not Necessarily Namaste — Lessons from Yoga Barbie

Yoga girl sunset     YAY! It’s Friday and that means it’s Yoga Day in Liz’s world. Fridays, I decided are to be my “down days” from running and hitting it hard at the gym during the week.   It’s a physical reward, like getting a massage after working hard all month.

I’ve been on a roll recently, but I know from past experience if I don’t build in some gentler workout days, I’m liable to crash and burn. So yoga makes sense as an alternative to running everyday. So on Yoga Day, my goal today was to cleanse my seven chakras, elongate my muscles and relax my mind.   At least that was the plan.

This is what really happened:

I awake just before 7 am. I scurry downstairs in a caffeine-deprived stupor because on Yoga Day you should only drink water. Lots of water. No time for the filtered pure stuff. Just rinse out a dirty glass from the sink super quick and guzzle the tap. I feed our three cats and let the dog out so I can begin.

Time to get started. I roll out my yoga mat and live-stream Yoga Now on TV. Ah, so many choices. This one looks good: Total Body Super Core Challenge– 58 minutes.

The first thing I notice is the lovely young serene blond-haired blue-eyed yoga instructor; she is the epitome of tranquility. Her voice is a steady soft low, just a few decibles above a whisper. If I wasn’t being mindful, I’d probably shout, “What’s that?” or “Come again?”

Hurdle one: I will not compare my body to that of a woman half my age who is probably a trust-fund graduate student who’s probably never birthed children and has been vegan and well, stretchy, for most of her life. No, today I will take the hat of judgment off my body, and just keep my eyes focused gently on my teacher for today.

So we start with a few cleansing breaths before easing into Chaturanga Dandasana. Basically, that’s the snobby Indian way of saying planking. And although I was nearly comatose only moments ago under jersey cotton sheets and down comforters, I’m suddenly sweating profusely as I try to align myself parallel to the floor in order to strengthen my core.

The first thing I notice is just how much dog hair is literally everywhere; there’s entire could-be-sweaters hiding out under all the couches and TV stand.   And now thru my Pranayama breathing, I realize my yoga mat actually smells more like a dog than even my dog does.

So as I gently plank myself, I turn my gaze ever so softly towards the TV to make sure I’m still in sync with Yoga Barbie. She’s so peaceful I think. Her eyes are so soft, like she’s just waking from a great dream.

Well, no wonder I think to myself. My gosh! Look at that view!

Her mat floats atop short manicured green grass, that looks soft as carpet. It’s positioned exactly at the midpoint between two magnificent palm trees with an emerald green ocean in the distance, also proportionately placed between two mountains. The sun is just rising. In her world there are no vehicles zooming by, only tropical birds singing their morning songs.

In my world, I hear a humming dishwasher, a distant washing machine, and creaky plumbing sounds. Soon my husband plunks down the stairs before leaving for work. He asks me a question related to taxes and bills in a loud voice.   Talk about a harshed mellow. “Can we talk about this later?” I reply while trying to tune out all distractions.

I press on thru the planking so I can hurry up and get to Downward Dog which would be more appropriately named if it were called Upword Butt. Truly, that’s what it actually is.   You are making an offering, a sun salutation of sorts to the world that silently screams: This is my butt. Consider the view as a double sunrise.  Please deal with it and above all, leave me alone and don’t speak to me while I do this.

I alternate between Upward Butt and Painful Plank while Ujjayi breathing a few dozen more times. That’s where I steal some of the breath from the ocean directly behind Yoga Barbie.   I hear a fire truck siren in the distance that is growing ever closer. I briefly consider the possibility that our house is on fire so that I can wrap this up a tad quicker. My husband lets our dog back in because he’s afraid of fire trucks, so now he comes over to my side to howl closer to my ear. Oh come on! Really?!  Who’s the idiot that burns their house down on a Friday Morning?

Stop! Thoughts are like bubbles I remember. You can just pop them if they become a distraction. I mentally prick at them a few times.   Now my son has come down stairs and is telling me in detail about a video game he was playing upstairs.

I look at the clock. It’s only 7:25 am. “Why are you even up?” I ask. He normally gets up around 8. By now I’m doing some Cobra stretches to make my backbone more flexible too. I’m breathing, but if feels more like the “Ch, ch, ch, ch” I learned in Lamaze class all those years ago. I may not be doing this correctly, but hey, I’m trying.

Next, one of my cats decides to get in on the action. He’s a sweet fellow, just not today. He comes up to me and my nearby dog and bites my wrists while I pose like a dog again. I’m determined not to give up.   He’s happily purring; he just happens to want to snack on what’s currently holding me up.

I plank and stretch and breathe and soar like an airplane and reach my feet and arms far apart from each other parallel to the floor for what feels like hours. I walk my feet that are far behind me all the way to up to my hands on the floor and come straight up. I go up. And then go down again. Breathe. Stretch. Be Aware. Take up lots of space. I feel what my body is doing as my body does it. Relax. Go deeper into it. Release all thoughts. Be still.

Yes, be still

While the dog drops a saliva-covered tennis ball on your throat once you finally get to do a relaxing stretch. While you’re child asks their fifteenth question during a half minute of Child’s Pose. While the phone rings. And the sirens blare. And the door slams. And the dust-coated fur-balls rage under the couch. While your thoughts race as to how to make it all stop just for one freaking moment!

Yes be still and know: That life balance is not easy.   That trying to take care of our self is a concept we delude our selves into believing that is reserved only for those who have time. Or energy. We will try harder when we have a little more of each. Time. Energy. Later. We’ll get around to doing this eventually–later.

Except that it doesn’t. Later never comes.

 Our distractions of choice increase exponentially by the day. As moms, all the hats we wear, it actually is hard to do anything at all for our self sometimes. Much less, do it alone in order to do it well!

But as a Master Yoda once taught me: There is no try. There is only do or do not.

So I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to do it scared and I’m going to do it frustrated sometimes.  I’m going to do it busy, even if it appears aadha-gadha . (That’s Indian for “half-assed” ) I’m going to do it tired and frazzled sometimes. I’m going to do it ungraceful and undignified.   Because if fifty-eight minutes of pretzel-twisting mental-cleansing Yoga Barbie taught me anything at all: I’m going to do it FINISHED.  Because that’s what counts.

We have to decide to love ourselves enough to want to cherish what God gave us so that we can serve all those others a little bit longer and a tiny bit better.   Less attitude, more strength.   We’re deciding right now to exchange our whining selves for our winning selves. Gently. One day at a time.

Just breathe, then do.

Press on all my Sisters Seeking Strength and Serenity.


Photo Credit:

Run For Your Life!! (Portrait of a Winner’s Heart)

Photo by:  Bob Stuart

It’s been said a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  Nobody knows this more than my sister-in-law Bren.  She always extends kindness and encouragement as a mom, wife, sister, daughter, and friend to many.  She works.  She trains herself and she trains others.  She’s climbed and reached the summit at Africa’s Mt. Kilamanjaro, has a 3rd degree black belt in Karate, and above all has the fierce courage of a lion.  She’s no doubt run a million steps, and every one of them was fueled by a desire to win and backed by her strong faith.

Every day she fearlessly and joyfully runs miles and miles.  I run a little, here and there, mostly indoors at an air-conditioned gym on a level surface that usually has a motor that keeps the ground as well as my speed—well, level.

She runs the way I wish to write. That is, she runs with endurance. 

She runs for her life!

You can’t help but notice a few things about her if you meet her, train with her, or just love her.  She bubbles over with encouragement and enthusiasm.  I want to run with endurance in the challenges I face, because God knows, the longer we live, the steeper our challenges.    Knowing her and watching her has taught me some things I need and want to do, in order to be who I think God has called me to be.

Be aware of your surroundings:    Internally:  What do you fill your head with?  Do you dream big?  Do you even have a dream?  No?  Then spend the very next first day you have free and write your own “bucket list.”  Commit to start exploring one item before this month is over.  Do not let another month go by, without attempting.  Externally:  Who do you fill your life with?  People that build you up, or tear you down?  Find people that support your dream,  not people that don’t think you can, or they wish to determine the scope and timetable of your dream.  Remember, it’s YOUR dream.  You set the pace and goals.   Surround yourself with the encouragers and leave the discouragers behind.

Seek correct approval.  For me, ultimately, I stand before God.  So I seek God’s approval and have to make my decisions according to what I know and believe about my faith.  At the end of the day, I also have to live with myself.  My own approval matters too.  I am learning that the voice in my head that sometimes says, “You can’t do that.   Who do you think you are?  You’re not talented, capable, deserving, or (fill in the blank),” is NOT the voice of God, or the better part of who I am.  We first must extinguish the negative voices inside and outside our head, in order to win.

.Run for Your LifeRun because you were born to do this!   Run because this keeps you alive.  This is your epicenter of what makes you beautiful, healthy, happy, and complete.  Keep going!

Discipline.  The daily habit of doing what you love is hard when you first get started because you have to “make time” for it.   Stay with it.   I’ve heard it takes executing a new behavior 30 days to become a habit.  That’s about right.  If life happens and you miss a day, get over it quickly, forgive yourself, and pick up where you left off the next day.  Repeat:  Keep going!!

Capture the journey.  Be aware and feel the sensations as you run.  Feel the way your heart beats and the magnificence of your own body’s complex machinery when it’s in motion.   Connect with the ground beneath your feet.  How do you respond when the pain comes?  Maybe you need to slow a little, but don’t stop entirely.  Keep going!

Run for joy. Run because it gives you joy.   Let this joy spill over into your relationships, and your daily tasks.  Enjoy the mundane tasks of life because you now frame those as training for the Real Thing. 

Persistance Pays!  Never Give Up.  Keep Going.  Did I mention this yet?  Daily discipline and a mental attitude that internally repeats I will not quit, I will not quit is key!

Run to Win Live “as if” This may be the hardest step of all, but it’s not insurmountable.   Basically, live “as if” you can already see yourself crossing the finish line and receiving the medal.  You have to believe in the possibility of the prize, before you’ll ever be ready to receive it.  Training, discipline, and persistence are all required if you desire to run to win.  Run and live “as if” you expect to win!

Run with Faith.  Run with endurance the race set before you.    Run to the best of your ability and leave the results with God.  Don’t skip any of the above steps.  Repeat at least 10,000 times.  Run until you know, at the core of your soul, you’ve got what it takes to win.  You may get a medal; you may not.  It’s not about the gold; it’s about the silver—who do you see staring back at you in the mirror?

Run until you see the person who says:

I can.

I will.

I do.

I love.

I am.

It’s all good.  Now run.  Run for your life!

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2