Rock Me Gently

One thing you may not know about me: I love learning. And I don't mean that in a vague or broad sense- I'm not talking about being a pupil at the school of life. I love classrooms. Few things bring me greater joy than the thought of plopping down at a desk- or on a mat, as the case may be- and taking copious notes for hours on end. I am a full-blooded hand-raising, question-asking nerd.

Which is why I was thrilled to have the opportunity recently to sit on a hot yoga teacher training session at the studio where I did my training. The topic was pregnancy modifications for the hot yoga series, which we hadn't covered when I trained lo those many years ago. I have yet to bear a child, so for me and a whole lot of other people in the room, the details about what exactly happens to a woman's body during pregnancy were a total "are you kidding me?!?!" moment. One of my favorite observations was that the men in the room were just as enthralled and intrigued by the process as the women. So cool to see, and so sweet.

After we learned about how the baby pushes its mother around (literally- most of her important organs get smushed up underneath her ribs), it was time to put the modifications into action. We stood on our mats, forming neat rows, eyes on our eyes, feet apart instead of together, and started the first breathing exercise.

Reader, something happened there. In this spirit of treating myself gently, of taking care of this tiny pretended life inside of me, I was transformed. I had believed that by now I was pretty adept at staring at myself in the mirror without criticism, fairly skilled at listening to my body and finding an edge that honored my presence in the moment. It's not that my belief was wrong, exactly, but I realized that afternoon I still had a long way I could go. This practice, the one where I took a rest on my side, where I actively did less when I would normally have pushed for more, where I skipped every sit-up and tenderly pushed my way back to a seated position- this was a practice of compassion and kindness. My intention was so clear, to take care of this (imaginary) life inside me, that I was free of any trace of anxiety or doubt (should I be sitting lower in triangle? can i seal my palms shut even more?). I know it wasn't just me. There was a shift in the room, a palpably different energy created by 30-some people taking full responsibility for treating themselves with care.

Reflecting on that day, it strikes me as funny, our innately human tendency to nurture a baby, to watch out for a little being that is vulnerable, who so desperately needs our support. It strikes me as funny because in truth,we are always responsible for a tiny spark of life- our own- and yet all too often, we are willing to subject that precious existence to criticism, struggle, and even punishment. You do it, I do it, there's no blame to be placed here. Rather, a question to be asked: Can we honor, care for, and wholeheartedly love the life that already dwells within?