Happy New Year To You.
How was your transition from 2017 to 2018? For many of us 2017 was hard. Tumultuous. We were called to show up, to act, to call, to resist, to make a difference in ways we’d never felt compelled to before. How did it all end for you? What’s carrying over into your new year? Politically, or politics aside?
The end of 2017 began – rather unceremoniously – for me with the return of hot flashes and night sweats and a scramble to find a remedy. I’ll turn 50 this February, and over the last year and a half I’ve experienced a ramp-up in erratic hormonal peaks and dives. In addition to that, an inflammation around my left hip that started during the Women’s March in Austin (well, honestly I think it started the previous October with a lot of trekking around Washington, D.C. and then exacerbated with marching but still not even a LOT of steps?!), turned to chronic, hot metal bands of pain along my IT band, my TFL muscle, my knee and hip flexors, now to an intermittent, throbbing nerve pain outside my shin bones and the sense that my left mid-back musculature has turned to hardened jerky. A long year of sometimes painful deep tissue and trigger point massage therapy, chiropractic and osteopathic treatment, in addition to hours and hours of regular (but often asymmetrical) yoga practice has allowed the central hip pain to resolve, and I’m now exploring another manual therapy known as Rolfing (for the back and lower leg issues). It’s all reckoning me to a movement limitation I never thought I’d know as a yogi. I’ve read more on the psoas muscle, fascia and hip mobility than is taught in most yoga teacher training programs.
My instinct is to chalk the whole condition up to the glacial changes in the curves and twists in my spine and pelvis I’ve lived with since adolescence, and which have adjusted and reacted to regular chiropractic intervention and admonishments about my footwear (I think orthotics are the culprit…). I think subtle shifts in my gait have moved historically right-sided compensation to left-sided inflammation. My first thought, riding back from Austin and stepping out of the backseat of my girlfriend’s car to the shearing heat in my hip, was, “Was I not supposed to march?” I ask you, body-mind, “Where else was I supposed to be?” Could my own body be a reflection of what went wrong with “the left”? Or of my own incapacity at times to act more, another admonishment, to push past this often suffocating paralysis around how to “resist” and where to best focus my energies? Or is it something older? A forgotten injury or trauma?
Also, more silver in my scalp, a few fewer eyebrow hairs, a few deeper lines and pockets of flesh in my face and throat. I’m not alarmed at the deeper and more superficial changes, I’ve never felt stronger or more at home in my body, but am noticing the rate of change seems to be gaining speed. Is this the year I stop futzing with my roots? Maybe…
Death and other crises in my immediate family and friend-families also marked the end of this year. My kind, soft-spoken cousin lost his sweet, young wife to a long battle with cancer on Thanksgiving; our new next door neighbor lost her husband unexpectedly the very next day. Old and new battles and traumas — both physical and emotional — surfaced among family, friends and students. The whiplash effect of watching what unfolds on a national level took a very welcome backseat through the holidays. Mercy. That we could be present for all of those closest and dearest to us. I think family relations and our longest-standing friendships deepened and gained new importance through it all.
Our grand-daughter thrives. You can almost literally see her brain processing sensory input. Determination shows in her pretty face and two-year old child body. She is carted around a lot, which I think benefits her more than the stability of single household in some ways, and she is loved deeply everywhere she goes. And she knows what yoga is. “Oga,” with a fingertip to her nose reminding Michael, “Shhhh.”
My stepchildren thrive. Watching them take up the mantles of adulthood and the roles of mother, aunt and uncle is milestone country. Seeing them succeed very much on their own terms, doing important work, work they love and acting as citizens of the world, makes it easier for me to see them the way Michael sees them, with humility and pride. This is a milestone for me. I spent a long, long time baffled by my own intransigence around accepting a role for myself relative to them. I was too young to be even a “step” mother to them in the sense of helping to “raise” them, and too caught up in my own identity and self-worth struggles to serve as much of a role model, or so I thought. Despite the ease with which they would come and go, and the funny and smart and interesting talks we had, and friends we were fortunate to meet through them, I still saw them as occasional and not always welcome visitors in “my house.” What happened? I’m not sure. Maybe I stopped resisting my own evolution. I sought people and tools to help me sort through my emotional reactivity around family. The last three or four years I feel like I’ve finally been able to make space for them that is more comfortable and comforting. I’m grateful for that.
The end of 2017 is also giving me pause to consider how I want to work into the remainder of my working years. I’m looking at adding a Licensed Professional Counselor arrow to my quiver and am reviewing a couple of relevant graduate programs for a Master’s in Counseling. I am at the same time questioning this “logical next step” – I have resisted additional trainings, certifications and schooling for years as if my life depended on “NO MORE”, and the pros and cons are worth examining in light of how I work now, and the level of financial stability I still want for myself and my life with Michael. The vagaries of the endless scramble for new students and the effects that the work of driving around and teaching so much yoga will have on my own body are something I’m not so sure I want to be struggling with in later years. And I’m not looking to switch gears or to stop teaching yoga; on the contrary, I’m looking for a way to supplement and offer more of the practice than I get to now. I want to look at and work with yoga as a practice that works explicitly on the way we see and experience our body-minds, our souls, our selves and the world around us, and our intimate connections to that world. To use yoga as a tool to heal not just body, but also spirit and as a practice that helps to make us more whole. Can I do that without another acronym? Sure, but can I offer something explicitly therapeutic, psychological – without a license? I’m not sure yet, because I’m not quite sure what I want that work scenario to look like, but I like having options to explore right now.
Finally, I feel like the end of 2017 might mark the end of a long period of yogic asceticism for me. I want more connection, I want more peerage, I want to re-explore what my community has to offer and what I might have to contribute in return. I teach 3 public classes per week, to a small group of pretty regular folks and I cherish those opportunities and friendships that have come out of them. But I miss having a class to attend myself, a regular “yoga home” to return to outside of my own home practice. Here’s to “concerted efforts.” I’ve spent much of the last eighteen months grounding my own personal practice, deepening my study of what yoga is and how it works, incorporating more breath practice, more meditation and now more Ayurveda with an eye toward integration, habituation. My teacher says, “practice is not compartmentalized.” It becomes part of who you are and how you inhabit your everyday, humble, ordinary life. Such gratitude for finding the right teachers and teachings.
I hope all of your transitions from one year to the next are full of opportunity, determination, support, beauty, family, friendship, and love. I hope we can have some conversation around your own practice and how you’d like to see your practice deepen or change this year. I’m grateful to be on this path together with you.