This past Tuesday night, I got home before midnight after a twelve-hour work day. I had only four hours of sleep the night before and for the night before that. I am definitely the type of person who needs at least eight hours to feel good. So you can imagine the level of exhaustion I had descended to. Operating on auto-pilot, I came home and tidied up the kitchen as it’s my preference to wake up to a clean kitchen when I can. I sorted my mail, then went upstairs to my bedroom and remained in brainless auto pilot as I did my bedtime routine. Which is this: put used clothes away, get makeup off, skin care routine, set morning alarm, and then pick out the next day’s clothes if I’m not too tired. I was too tired this Tuesday night though, so my next step was to just go to bed and sleep.
Tuesday night was different though.
My under eye areas were tingling (is that a precursor to permanent under eye bags?), my lower back ached from hunching over and using my lumbar spine as the fulcrum (I don’t know why I let myself bend there, but I always have), and my brainless-ness was drifting back to consciousness. I was thinking about how I signed up for an eight kilometer run, and how out of shape I am. Not really appearance-wise, but more so with my skill level in exercise.
I remembered how I used to take daily yoga classes the summer after my junior year and how happy it made me. I go brainless in yoga as well, but it is an intended shutting-off of my mind. This is how I reach my meditative state: to focus only on the yoga instruction, adjust for any discomfort, and think of aligning my breathing with my movement (big breaths for big stretches). I also physically benefited in pushing my flexibility, balance, and pose strength goals. I was adequately challenged, focused, disciplined, and at peace.
Tuesday night, I was not feeling that way. I had been coming home each night to a sleeping home before midnight (I live with five other people and I almost never see them during tax season. My body has been sore from bad desk posture and total lack of exercise. My skin, hair, & nails have been becoming dull and poorly maintained.
Tuesday night was going to be different.
I looked up a lyric-less yoga playlist on Spotify, set my phone down, and started with Surya Namaskar, or sun salutation. Instinctively, my mind woke up and focused in on the movement. I deliberately moved slow so I could feel my muscles stretch and my joints & cartilage creak and crack. I could feel the lingering pain sustained from old college injuries ache in my right shoulder blade and along the vertebrae of my cervical spine.
But it was a weak protest of dull pain that subsided into quiet muscle stretching.
This yoga practice session put my mind in a different spot than when I was in college. I was not mindlessly sliding into extremely flexible poses and waiting on the other classmates. I was alone, doing this for myself and not as a show-off performance. My mind was alternating between flashing back to my last serious yoga class (a great teacher offers yoga for credit at my college) and making comparisons to that very moment. Specifically, I was noting all the differences in how my body felt. I used to be high maintenance about self-care. I observed how that paid off quite well in college and how I have now been slacking. For example, I used lotion morning and night, and all of my exercise classes between yoga & cheer & personal gym time kept me very hydrated from drinking so much water. These sound like small, meaningless tasks that perfectly highlight my high maintenance viewpoint, heh. I don’t do those activities as much or ever these days though. Now, my skin is dry and too taut when I go into basic stretches like Balasana, or child’s pose. I could feel my parched skin all over ache from the pull of the stretch. I felt bones shift suddenly and almost painfully, muscles quivering instantly from the first inkling of strain, and I heard joints pop as I did simple movements. Eventually, my skin dealt with the pulling, my bones settled, and my muscles loosened up with a lot of repetition of the poses and stretches.
Now, I feel peace returning to my mind, even despite the pressure headache I accidentally produced holding my breath in some poses. I couldn’t touch my toes at all at the end of my first Surya Namaskar, feebly wobbling if I tried to reach. I think after maybe eight cycles through, I was able to flatten my belly against my thighs and kiss my shins like I had in college.
I could go on about my observations forever. The point of this is to express the problems of neglect I put on myself and how it leaves me feeling generally crummy.
Maybe you feel this way too at times.
I feel inspired now. This past Tuesday night was exactly what I needed, just before the end of tax season. I am going to do self-guided yoga practice three times a week to rebuild my strength and flexibility. I will be moving to Capitol Hill this summer and be within walking distance of a yoga studio, which I hope will be decently priced to sign up for. I just love yoga studio spaces and this precisely what my mind and body needed this week!
Hope you enjoyed this post and I truly hope you are taking care of yourself, no matter what!