This week I turned 41. Needless to say, last year at this time I turned 40.
Somehow turning 40 didn't feel very profound. Perhaps the hype of middle age that we've been sold for decades falls flat on the actual big day. It did for me.
It was a lovely day, a lovely stretch of days actually, filled with seaside dining and green mountain exploring. I felt blessed, but I didn't experience the inner reflection I'd imagined one feels on their fortieth turn around the sun.
But something about this birthday has me all in a tizzy. A good tizzy, to be clear. Maybe a better word is energized. Yes, that's it. I'm energized.
For the last several weeks I've quietly observed this energy percolating within - begging to surface, to shine, to foster change and growth. An energy that has felt dormant for some time now, especially coming out of the summer months (my least energetic, least creative, and least joyful months of the year).
Now we are heading into September, October and November... oh yes, this is my time.
These are the months my spirit feels most alive, ready to explore and grow. For me, this happens in the quietest of ways, but one constant factor makes it all the better - yoga. When I am deeply engaged in the practice of yoga, I am deeply engaged in the practice of living. Without the first, I sometimes struggle with the second.
A gift left in my mailbox by good friends who know my love for both the mountains, and pottery.
Out and about, I run into people that I haven't seen for a long time. At some point in our catching-up conversation they will ask if I'm still "doing yoga." This can be a difficult question to answer. Do I answer with hours logged on the mat. Because I imagine they are wondering if I have done my sun salutations for the day, a few downward dogs... is my headstand perfected yet? And the truth is - no, I don't see the number of hours on the mat that I once did. But in many ways my practice has evolved to a new and deeper place - one that has become a cornerstone to living and weaves its way into making dinner, bathing the dog, or replying to email.
So maybe not "doing yoga" in the way people might assume, but practicing and living yoga in a variety of ways and with varying degrees of dedication. Yes, always. If I'm breathing, there will be yoga.
Asana takes you far on this path. The level at which I once practiced carried me for quite a long time off the mat, I was able to meet most of life's curve balls with relative ease. Lately though, I've felt the need to revisit a deeper physical practice. This is something I've done many times over the years - it's the natural cycle for most householder yogis.
Over the summer my reserves began to feel depleted and living my yoga was challenging.
Time to pause, notice, and strengthen.
From Adam, who also knows my love for pottery... and handmade wooden utensils.
Yoga postures, along with breath work and meditation, are indeed the central practices of yoga - but the fruit of yoga, the bountiful harvest rewarded for time on the mat - that is found in living your everyday life.
It's having the strength and resolve to sit with patience while driving your morning commute. It's knowing that everyone is fighting their own hard battle so greet the day and those you encounter with kindness for you never know what they're up against. It's realizing that many small actions with clear intention can lead to a fulfilling day, while procrastinating and avoiding the tasks at hand can snowball into a completely discouraging day. It's allowing yourself to feel anger and frustration, while having the skills to process such feelings in a healthy way.
Time on the mat is truly the preparation for our time off the mat. Yoga doesn't end with savasana, it begins. But in order to reap the benefits, we must do the work.
Recently I carved out a space in my bedroom to roll out my mat. It's the first dedicated spot I've had in this home for practice. I can see already the yoga promises to be wonderful from this small corner, but living my yoga as a result of strong physical practice is where the true magic will happen.
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A few weeks ago I decided the perfect birthday gift to give myself was that of time.
Time to practice, re-energize, heal and strengthen. Time to live.
I need this.
For the next 108* days I'll be practicing yoga deeply, living life fully (what I wouldn't give to bottle the bliss of September, October and November), and doing my best to capture it all through my lens.
I'd also love to share those images here, with you.
(*108 is considered a sacred number in the yogic tradition and many Eastern religions. In choosing a length of time to gift myself for this deeper practice, this number of days was a clear choice.)
A few photos each day (or most days, I'm sure is more accurate), capturing the moments that cause me to pause and say, "This... this is yoga." What I share might be surprising, or maybe it won't be surprising at all. I find yoga as easily in a stack of spiritual texts with a particular quote calling to me as I find yoga in the compost pile.
I honestly don't know how this will turn out, if it will be meaningful or fulfilling at all. All I know is that I've felt compelled to do this for weeks now, and so I'm choosing to say yes.
Expectations, cast aside.
Starting Monday, I'll share photos and maybe a few words each morning, from the day before. I'm also going to do something I have never done before... I'll turn comments off* for the duration of the 108 days. (I'll miss you!!) Intuition tells me to trust that the quiet will be an important part of this, so let's savor it.
Living yoga, through the lens.
I am so ready.
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* Edited to add - You know what? Turning comments off doesn't feel like a good idea to me after all. It's just not my style of blogging... it sort of feels like I would be shutting the door on you and that is not my intention. They'll stay open... open feels good.