Last Saturday, my yoga teachers arranged to have David Swenson talk to our community about teaching and practicing yoga. He had many encouraging, insightful things to tell us. One of his responses during the Q&A part of the class really stuck with me.
A member of our community shared that she had twin boys over the summer. Since then, it’s been hard to reconnect with her practice for obvious reasons: the demands of caring for two infants that had been in the NICU as well as a toddler at home, the stresses of pandemic life. She said it was hard for her not to compare where she is now to where she was two years ago.
“Two years ago, you didn’t have twin baby boys at home,” Swenson replied. “And now you do. What a blessing!”
He went on to say that we don’t practice yoga in order to be “good” at yoga. We practice as a means of bringing more wellness and balance to our lives. The postures and sequences aren’t the point; living life is the point. And so it stands to reason that our practices should, and do, evolve to support where we our in our journeys.
This resonated. My yoga practice this year has been inconsistent, difficult to sustain, less advanced physically and shorter in duration than ever before. I haven’t minded. There’s so much else to worry about right now. If I can make it to my mat for a little bit of healing movement and breath each morning—if doing that calms me and supports me to any degree at all—I’m calling it a win.
Even so, I understood where my fellow yoga student was coming from with her question. I compare current abilities to past abilities all the time. Most notably I do this with my degree of productivity: why can’t I be as productive and energetic as I was a decade ago?
Obviously, the answer is that I’m not myself a decade ago. I’m me right now. And, as a colleague recently reminded me, “you can only do what you can do.”
I see a lot of this same tendency in my work, especially as it relates to body image. I can’t tell you how many clients have suggested to me that the number they weighed at the age of seventeen or twenty was the “right” weight for them, in spite of the fact that it’s been two, three, four, or even five decades since they inhabited that shape.
Your twenty-year-old body is not your forty-year-old body, I counter. Your forty-year-old body is not your sixty-year-old body. And so on. Our bodies change to accommodate new seasons.
I hear similar frustrations about physical fitness and performance. People long for their past speed, flexibility, and strength. It’s humbling to find ourselves in a different state of ability than the one we used to have. It’s natural to look backwards. But we’re human beings, not machines. We’re changing all the time, often mysteriously and in a way that defies expectations. The best we can do is to meet ourselves where we are and thank our bodies for continuing to give us a home.
When I catch clients longing to be their past selves, I offer them the same gentle redirection that I give myself each time I feel upset about the fact that I’m not as much of an energizer buddy as I was at the time that I started this blog. “I’m not me ten years ago,” I say to myself.
My nutrition clients aren’t themselves ten (or five, or twenty) years ago, either.
I’ve been struggling lately to be at peace with the path that I’m on. Sometimes my struggle takes the form of critiquing my past self and past choices, finding difficulty in forgiving myself for not then being able to differently. Sometimes I go the opposite way, comparing my current self unfavorably to the me of years past.
Either tendency, I know, is a means of resisting the present moment, of settling into the faith that things are working out just fine. I’m not sure why it’s so hard for me to do that, but the past five years have kicked up a lot of second-guesing.
David Swenson was referring to my yoga friend’s two little boys when he uttered, “what a blessing!” But I keep hearing him say it. And when the phrase echoes in my mind, it’s as an expression of thanks for whatever is right now.
Whatever the current circumstances are, there’s a blessing to be found, something that wouldn’t have been possible previously. When I don’t know what the blessing is, I can trust in the fact that unknowing is itself an exciting, juicy state. One that’s full of possibility and hope.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
Nothing like a bright, lemony bowl of vegan pasta.
I love TVP! And I can’t wait to try these tacos.
Seitan bourguignon, yum.
Finally, I’m dying to take a bite of one of Britt’s scrumptious nutella cupcakes.
1. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans, and especially Asian-American seniors, is on the rise. NPR reports on the trend from San Francisco.
2. An eye-opening essay from writer Hannah Walhout on being “the tall girl.”
3. A powerful perspective on injury and pain—in this case specifically, injury as it is experienced by runners.
4. An important op-ed on how lack of internet access—a commodity that is unaffordable to some residents of racial and ethnic minority communities—may prevent vaccination against the coronavirus.
5. Thoughts and prayers to those in Texas who have been adversely impacted by the extreme weather. One small piece of good news I read about was this massive rescue of 4,500 endangered sea turtles from frigid waters.
I’m starting the new week with a sense of appreciation. For life, for the present, and for all of you.
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