Mile High Pilates and Yoga
Every day is different. Even people living a completely ritualized existence will need to acknowledge this fact. If nothing else, think about weather. There may be places on earth where the weather is the same every day, but I doubt it. Even if you live alone in the woods you are still part of an ecosystem that is in a constant state of flux. None of us is exempt from external influences. We are all interconnected in this way. Each of us is just a small part of a larger whole where we frequently find ourselves being impacted by circumstances beyond our control. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on your point of view.
Some of us welcome change. These folks are constantly seeking something different and may even get bored or restless when things seem to stay the same for too long. Others (and this is most of us) hate change, resisting even the smallest manifestations. We like consistency because it gives us a sense of predictability reinforcing our illusion of control. If we believe we can rely on things as they are, we don’t have to fear the unknown. This fear is really just anxiety that we won’t be able to handle whatever changes occur in the future.
Despite this sense of anxiety there is not a single person among us who can look back through their lives and not see evidence of an ability to handle change. We’ve all faced changes at some point in our lives regardless of our age. In fact, small children change on a daily basis and usually manage to adapt. As we age, we may become more invested in the status quo. Yet we can still find even more examples of accepting change. We may have been dragged kicking and screaming into a different scenario from the one we were used to, but still most of us find a way eventually to see things as they are and adjust. Sometimes change brings hidden blessings which may not be recognized immediately but might become evident in hindsight. Looking back can sometimes help us move forward when change is required.
Sometimes change is forced on us for one reason or another. At other times the status quo itself is causing our suffering and we need to create our own change. This can be difficult. Inertia is a powerful force. Also, just as changes in the world impact our own personal lives, so changes we make to our personal lives can impact the lives of others. This doesn’t make those changes good or bad, right or wrong. But it does help to remember that all decisions have consequences, some unexpected and unanticipated. Being willing to accept and deal with the consequences whatever they are is one of the characteristics of resilience. This is a quality defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” You may have heard the saying “pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” Resilience is one of the traits that help us deal with the pain without buying into the suffering.
So what does all of this have to do with yoga, Pilates or exercise in general, my usual themes? Basically it’s this – since each day is different and change is all around us all of the time, our practice can be impacted. One of the many benefits of practice is that it helps us to deal with stress. Practice can be an anchor in a raging sea of change. There can be a comfort in the experience of simple breath and movement. One of the things I often tell students is that if you really focus on connecting breath and movement there is usually no room in your head for anything else. This can provide a brief respite from the ills of the world. In fact, practice might help you to remember that in this moment right now there is still a lot that is OK. We as humans seem to naturally gravitate to noticing what’s wrong more often than what is right. Those of you who take my classes know that at the end of each class I always offer gratitude for being able to move and breathe. This is something I learned from yoga teacher Seane Corn and I am grateful to her for passing on that tip. It has served me well.
Another consequence of daily changes is that some days are better than others physically as well as mentally. As we get older, we tend to focus on the negative aspects of these feelings, but they are not limited to older people. Everyone has days when they feel like they could conquer the world and other days when staying in bed seems like the only option. On days like that it helps to remember that practice can be a source of comfort. If you take classes regular, the group can also be a support. Just like you feel differently on some days, your practice can be different, too. If you’re not feeling terribly energetic or if you are bogged down by some difficulty, don’t blow off your practice. Instead allow it to change just as you are changing. Be gentle. Take it slow. Don’t work so hard. Bend your knees more. Try using an extra blanket or other prop to make it less stressful. Or just take Child’s Pose and breathe whenever you feel like it. You can also just completely avoid poses that are painful or difficult. Or use modifications even if that’s something you rarely do. There are no expectations you need to live up to. Your practice is for you alone. There may be a benefit to others due to the effects of your practice on you, but that’s not the point. The ultimate goal is for you to take care of yourself. So just for today whatever will help you do that is the right thing to do. Tomorrow will be different.