Push Yourself Into Happiness
I am not by nature a morning person, but my life starts early regardless. I’m embarrassed to admit how many years it took me to accept this fact, years in which I plowed through the first three hours of the day in a haze of grim determination and simmering self-pity.
It didn’t make me much fun to be around.
At long last, I arrived at the discovery that in order to embrace the day I needed to build in a routine that would get my mind, body, and spirit in tune, ready and willing to go forth and even be cheerful about it.
It meant I had to get up even earlier, but that quiet time before work or other obligations stake their claim on me has become, believe it or not, one of my favorite parts of the day.
So, yoga and meditation. Twenty minutes of each, while still in my jammies. The yoga tunes up my creaky old bod, the meditation dissolves the resistance in my squirrely brain. A big steaming cup of coffee to follow, and I’m right with the world.
Understand, I don’t do yoga because I’m as limber as a young willow-wand. I do it because I’m not. After years of daily practice, sitting cross-legged in “easy seat” is anything but easy for my uber-tight hips. Still, I’ve gotten stronger and more flexible, and able to do things I couldn’t in the past.
Of course, there are poses my various teachers have demonstrated that I’m not sure are humanly possible even though I’ve seen them done.
Not gonna happen.
But I’ve been frustrated by my inability to achieve Wheel Pose, which is yoga jargon for a full, hands-and-feet-only-touching-the-ground, backbend. I could do a commendable Bridge Pose, and I could get my hands firmly planted on the floor behind my shoulders, but I just . . . couldn’t . . . quite . . . go any further.
Listen to your body, every teacher and trainer says. When attempting Wheel, I would politely ask my arms to push me skyward. And then I’d have to listen to them laugh at me.
But this morning! This very morning, I dragged myself out of bed after a fairly rotten night’s sleep (I’ll spare you my sleep issues), rolled out my mat, and clicked on one of my go-to Lesley Fightmaster (she’s awesome) videos.
It’s one that has Bridge-to-Wheel in it, but I usually content myself with just doing Bridge, planting my feet on the mat, knees forward, hips lifted high, shoulder blades tucked underneath my back.
Backbends are said to be energizing, and I was in sore need of energy, so just for grins and because nobody was watching, I planted my hands, scooched my weight toward my chest, put my head back, and . . .
Lifted. Right into full-on Wheel Pose. Kinda like this:
I don’t know if I looked exactly like the woman in the photo, but I assure you I was smiling more bigly than she is. In fact, I was whooping with delight and amazement, so much so I had to stop myself before I woke my husband slumbering in the next room.
And talk about energy! It was like I’d found a hidden powerhouse somewhere in the region of my lumbar spine. It has stayed with me all through this fairly long and challenging day, keeping me buoyant and simmering with glee. It’s been all I can do to refrain from announcing to my coworkers and students, “Hey, guess what? I did Wheel today!”
Any good yoga teacher will tell you it’s not about the pose, it’s about connecting your movement and breath, your body and mind and spirit. But sometimes it’s also about finding your edge, and perhaps going a bit beyond that to see what you’re capable of after all.
It’s exciting. I mean, if creaky, stiff, sixty-something-year-old me can do Wheel Pose, what else is possible? Where else can I push past what I assumed were my limits?
I’m still pretty jazzed. And I’m seriously grateful.
Check out my experiment in radical gratitude, part of a month-long challenge I’ve set myself to discover the miracle, large or small, each day brings.