This morning I woke up at 6 am, not because I'd set my alarm (I had), but because the cats I'd locked out of the bedroom an hour or so prior were scratching to be let in. Had they not been annoyingly persistent, I'd have kept hitting the snooze button for an hour while my boyfriend silently cursed me in his dreams.
Instead, I figured I'd do what I set out to do: get up hours before I have to leave for work and move my body.
I've become very stiff since moving to New York. My shirts are fitting snugly. My back hurts when I stand up for a long time, and it's because I rarely stand up for a long time. The weather in New York City has been an icy deterrent to exercise, and I've let it win.
I got spoiled by San Francisco's mild everydays. I walked to the gym there, where memberships are far cheaper and it rarely rains. Hence the inexpensive gym contracts. In San Francisco, you can walk anywhere, bike anywhere, hike anywhere and otherwise be active in the outdoors year-round. In New York, unless you want a face full of snow bank or are a much more extreme exerciser than me, you have to join a gym. And they know that. So New York quadruples the price of what I was paying in San Francisco and tells you to like it or leave it.
So, I've gotten softer. Stiffer. Less agile. And it's starting to become horrifyingly obvious that I can't rely on my youth anymore to keep me sprightly. I'm pushing 40 and my back hurts. Top and bottom. And it's time to turn this creaky, old boat around.
And because I'm pushing 40 I've learned that jumping whole hog into an exercise routine with gusto is great...until the next day when you have to brace yourself against the stall to go to the bathroom. Delayed onset muscle soreness is no joke, and while it means you've worked out hard, it can often mean I don't work out again for 3 days. Because I did too much too soon. And then I end up not going at all, and no habit has been created. So, none of that for me. I'm easing back in to being active with one of my favorite things: yoga.
And I'm going back to the fundamentals. I've taken yoga classes before. Power yoga and Bikram yoga, but that was when I was younger and fitter. And to be honest, I didn't know what I was doing half the time I was there. I was watching everyone else around me trying to figure out the flows, because I'd never really started from the beginning.
So, I'm starting from the beginning.
This morning I did a 40 minute practice for beginners that included basic instruction on things like downward dog and corpse pose, the simplest of simple moves. But I'd never had anyone tell me that moving into downward dog should happen from the sit bone, like a mother bear picking up her cub by its tail.
Luckily, I found Adriene. She wears sweatpants, has a sense of humor and is the owners of one of the most soothing voices known to man. Her instruction is clear, calming and forgiving. She can be a little act-y, but that's easy to overlook (I mean, she's a professional actress, so it's understandable). Overall, she is one of the best yoga instructors I've had, on YouTube or in real life.
Best of all, Adriene's YouTube classes are free. She had a full 30-day yoga program for no cost, and it's what I'll be embarking on once I finish her yoga beginners playlist. I'm not rushing anything, not pushing toward "yoga for weight loss," just allowing the practice to become habit one small baby step at a time.
So, this morning I rolled my mat out onto the living room floor. I lit three scented candles and left the blinds closed and the lights off and was inside my body for 45 minutes. The cats were not going to let me practice unencumbered, so they joined in for a few minutes, as well. Gracie has perfected the Hair Sniffing Pose already.
After the session was over, I lay on the mat in savasana, pushing away thoughts of breakfast and what I would wear and the impending commute, and meditated. Only for three minutes or so, but the time felt expansive and well-spent.
Then I rolled up my mat, put oatmeal in the rice cooker and got on with my day.
While the snooze button is a seductive temptress, I am so glad the cats came scratching around my door this morning. By getting up early and moving my body I feel accomplished. No, I didn't break a sweat, and I didn't do anything particularly challenging, but I did what I set out to do, which is reward in and of itself.
In fact, the mat session led to a real sense of calm during my commute. This is different from the normal, stabby way that I feel when on the subway. I felt relaxed and flexible, even in my mind.
So, when the train, packed the the brim, arrived at Queensboro Plaza and the woman in the fake fur slammed her body into mine in order to board, I just breathed through it. And when she repeatedly shoved me to make room for herself where there was no room, I had a soft mind. And when she drove her elbow into me and crushed my chest into the railing, I did not snap at her, only cooed quietly near her ear, "You and I both know you should have waited for the next train, so please stop shoving me." I said it soothingly and with a smile. And then she apologized, much to my surprise.
I'm not saying a single yoga class for beginners cured all that ails me, but it's a good start. Namaste.