Weekend Reading
February 21, 2021

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

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.

Recipes

Nothing like a bright, lemony bowl of vegan pasta.

I love TVP! And I can’t wait to try these tacos.

Seitan bourguignon, yum.

A cauliflower-based, vegan chili.

Finally, I’m dying to take a bite of one of Britt’s scrumptious nutella cupcakes.

Reads

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.

xo

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    6 Comments
  1. Gena,

    I am late to the party but your post resonated with me. When people ask me how I am doing I jokingly tell them that I woke up this morning, which is about 95% of the battle! Just being alive is pretty crucial. Everything else just sort of follows. Adjusting to the realities of aging isn’t always lovely. For me, the unknowns have been the most stressful. Why is this happening to my body now? I never had this problem before? Why can’t I do that anymore? Those are the types of questions that I mean. But honestly, it’s fine. It has to be right? I would rather be here than not here. And when I am not here, that will be OK too I guess.

    Good for you for showing up every day, doing what you can no matter how imperfect, and for just chugging along. It counts!
    Take care,
    Libby

  2. Gena,
    Thank you for sharing this great insight from David Swenson. I think everyone is feeling some version of regret over how things once were, myself included. I used to take a weekly yoga class for years with a wonderful and very compassionate teacher at a local health club. Injuries kept me away from the class and when I was ready to get back, she was no longer offering the class at the time that worked best for my schedule. She is an older lady and has decided to cut back on teaching so she can enjoy more precious time with her beloved. It sucked for me, but I could never fault her for that.
    This happened perhaps 5 years ago and I haven’t really been to many classes since then. Because of that, my body seems to have forgotten settling into certain poses, and that has become a big challenge for me.
    While reading that same local health club’s email newsletter last week, I saw a photo of my teacher with a link to a yoga class that she recorded. I know that the club has posted many workout/yoga videos since the pandemic began, but I honestly never really looked at them. I started watching her video, and it brought me back to those days when I was in her class. She was just as wonderful and compassionate. I always remembered her reminding us to always honor our bodies. Before she did a seated forward fold in her stretching sequence, she looked directly into the camera and she said another thing she always used to say, which is “You’re perfect just as you are.” I just burst into tears.
    Perhaps someday I can get back to yoga as a practice. Perhaps I can start with her recorded class. We are not who we were 5 years ago, 5 months ago, or even 5 minutes ago, and it’s okay. We should try to be as present in the moment as we can. Much love to you, dear friend.

  3. Thank you as always for Weekend Reading Gena! It is a highlight every Sunday for me to read.

    I was wondering if you had any plans for the blog for NEDA week this year? I have always appreciated your writing on EDs, body image and food and was hoping you were planning on writing something for this year as well. (of course no pressure but wanted to make sure you knew there was interest in it!)

    Hope you have a good week!

    • Emily, so funny. I woke up today and realized NEDA week was a week earlier than I thought it was! Pandemic forgetfulness is applying to everything, it seems 🙂 I’ll be posting up a storm on IG and dedicating a post to it next Sunday. I am so glad that you want to read that content—I love the sharing. <3

  4. Since discovering your Weekend Reading posts a couple of months ago, I’ve come to look forward to them each week. My two favorite lines in this one: “thank our bodies for continuing to give us a home” and “unknowing is itself an exciting, juicy state.”
    Thank you for your writing and all the best!

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