A Room of One's Own
Before I move to Austin on Monday, I thought it would be a good idea to pop up to Boston to teach a couple of workshops on Saturday. Why? Because I'm a glutton for punishment! No, actually, and perhaps strangely, I'm considering it a mini-vacation. A moving vacation, more specifically, since I get to ride a train and have nearly 8 hours to myself to do with what I wish. That's about 6.5 hours more than I've had in a long time.
On the trip so far, I've slept, read a magazine, planned classes, written this blog, caught up on emails, and simply stared out the window, enjoying the passing views of the verdant Hudson Valley. This may sound like a lot, but these were all things I felt like doing, and they've brought me heartfelt pleasure. Virginia Woolf once said, "A woman must have money and a room of her own, if she is to write fiction."
I think that sentiment extends to both genders. No matter who you are, in order to create, you need resources. And one integral requirement of creative freedom is space.
This doesn't mean just a physical space, but some kind of spiritual "room"--an expanse within. This is where your spirit can dance with abandon as you gift yourself the chance to decide what to create next, instead of having your next move dictated by the pressures of time, relationships, and responsibility.
The funny thing is, we yogis learn that in order to expand, we must first draw inward. We have to contain ourselves, plug our pranic leaks, and stop existing solely in other people's rooms if we are to truly live in our own. This practice of self-regulating the balance between giving and receiving helps us stay focused not only on sharing with others, but on keeping what we need. In this way, we cultivate moksha, or being free from stress and suffering, but to me, also means having the freedom to access the soul, and from there, to express oneself completely and without regret.
This is often what stepping onto the mat means to me. It's a magic carpet ride to new adventures as I remember and reveal the most vital parts of myself. No phones ring, no flight times loom, no partners or students need my attention. Sometimes I feel guilty for wanting this time to myself, this room of my own. After all, I love my loved ones and enjoy my job. As a centered-living teacher, I should be able to exist in peace within the chaos and pull of the outer world, right?
Well yes, and no. I find that in order to give the quality of attention that my projects and interactions deserve, I simply must take physical, mental, or emotional retreats at regular intervals. Otherwise, I risk burnout. Whether it's a nap, a walk in the park, a long bath, or a train ride, I'm careful to immerse in the luxury of being totally Self-centered. Then, once I'm ready to re-engage with the world, I have all the more to offer the next time an offering is called for.
All too often, we wait until we are at the end of our ropes, frazzled and spent, before we'll use those vacation days or get a massage. Sometimes it takes illness or fatigue to force us to pause and get some much needed rest.
As practitioners of a conscious path, I invite each of us to do better than that. Let's look for daily opportunities to invoke freedom: to withdraw, conserve, and nourish our bodies, hearts, and minds. If chances for restoration are lacking in your life, build a room of your own with the tools gathered from your yoga practice: the wisdom to know when to go and when to stop, and the inner strength to create the boundaries needed to literally make peace with--and within--your life.
Core Pose: Ustrasana (Camel Pose) with Arm Stretch
Here's an asana that helps me invite moksha into my day by shaking off the constrictions of tension in my body or on some other level.
Kneel at the front of your mat with your knees slightly separated. Reach one hand back onto the floor or a block. Exhale fully and firm your belly. As you inhale, press your fingertips into the mat and circle your other arm up and back beside your ear. At the same time, lengthen your tailbone and pull your navel in and up as you lift your hips (a little or a lot, depending on your flexibility) and wave your spine towards a heart-opening backbend. Refrain from dropping your head back; keep the neck curve naturally long and supported. Exhale, return your hips to your heels, and bring the opposite hand behind you to repeat on the other side.
Aim for 5-10 repetitions of this pose then fold forward into Child's Pose for one minute.