I feel it wherever I am. In whatever I'm doing. In quiet space like Ironing at Night, Doing Dishes During Naptime, Walking the Dog Alone. And especially, most notably, in loud spaces like Mealtime and Cartime and Bathtime and They Need a Referee Time.
It's a tightness around my mouth. Tension I hold there, captive, where it whispers about the wrinkles that are carving my face into a map, historical, that tracks patterns that I thought were invisible.
But whenever I am here enough to let it go -- let my mouth relax outside and in -- I feel a sigh travel up my cheeks and across my scalp. Down my jawbone and all over my neck. But always, moments later, the clench creeps back into my lips and tongue and palate, pulling closed what was just open. I try to practice letting go again and again, but this pattern runs deep beneath the surface. It owns me.
I walk into class expectant but unsure what yoga will say about The Joy of Running. All I know is that I used to enjoy running, back and back in another life when I was fast and good and had all the time in the world. But the only thing that's fast about me these days is the rate at which tired and done set in. With lungs exploding and shoulders slumping and various injuries knocking at my door, I've always quickly given up any attempt at resuming running. I hated it.
So I'm all ears when he talks about teaching the body new patterns of movement through yoga and drills and then not worrying about it in the moment but trusting that the body will remember what it learned and the elegant posture that's nothing but natural will feel good and efficient and leave room from the mind to notice all the things it loves about sweating and breathing and being outside.
We work from the ground up. Talking about the feet and how a light step starts with firm grounding. About pelvic flection and using the most efficient muscles to bend the knee. About a strong pelvic floor and a strong low belly. About coordinating movement across the planes of the body. About finding the sweet spot in shoulder alignment. About exhaling fully and -- interestingly -- relaxing the roof of the mouth.
I take these tools home with me and find myself running fast and having fun -- and -- stopping often. But stopping isn't the enemy, I learned. Run -- walk. Exert -- rest. A productive pattern that keeps the heart rate up and allows me to enjoy the exercise. I am in love. Sore, but in love.
I want to enjoy everything more. The quiet spaces. Even the loud spaces. And I have a hunch that letting the tension drain from every little moment is a way to start from the ground and move up, changing old patterns and trusting that with time, my body will learn to help my mind meet loud and quiet, stress and leisure, exertion and rest with equal composure and presence and peace.
And just like in class, where we started the process of teaching our bodies with yoga and drills so that the run could be effortless and enjoyable, I need a place to practice, outside especially the loud moments that can sometimes totally take me over.
Can daily meditation be that practice place? I was working to meditate a single minute each day earlier this year, but that intention evaporated at some unknown point. I stopped. Gave up.
Maybe it's time to start again.