Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sweat the Small Stuff

I am a woman in motion who sweats.  A lot.  It drips down my face, my back, my arms, my legs.  Sometimes it drips into my eyes.  Sometimes it soaks through my clothes.  I prefer tank tops to t-shirts more because tanks don't show off sweat stains as readily as t's do.  I am nothing if not practical.

Sweating is good, sweating is healthy, sweating is normal.  A sweating body is one that is self-regulating properly, it's keeping the internal heat at a manageable level.  It is good to sweat.

And thank goodness for that because, as I'm sure it's clear by now, I sweat.

I was thinking about this the other night in Ann's class at O2 Yoga as she adjusted me in a seated spinal twist and gave her familiar explanation about how doing twists helped massage and cleanse internal organs -- to put it the simplest of terms, twists served to wring out your insides like a squeezing a sponge full of water.  My back was sweaty as Ann pressed her hand against the small of it, her other hand guiding my shoulder.  Somehow her simile took on profound new meaning to me as I felt my entire body become that sponge she referenced.  Drip drip drip.

Somehow, this all managed to ground me more in my practice.  It made me think more about why we were doing what we were doing when and how we were doing it.  And for me to think more about these things than I do ordinarily is what made me want to sit down and write about it.

It made me want to write about those things that I've learned while on my mat.  Those things about anatomy and sense of purpose and fundamentals and what it means to breathe.  It made me want to write about how doing yoga has better equipped me to live life off my mat.  It made me want to write about how learning to regulate my rapidly firing brain, to slow it down, has made me a kinder, more honest, more giving person.  And it made me want to write about how all of this may seem like cliche, like hippy-dippy baloney, but that none of it is.  Not everyone has the same truth, but this is my truth.  Yoga did these things for me.  And I still can't believe it, not ever, how deciding to sweat on my mat at O2 Yoga instead of on an elliptical machine at a gym changed my life in an untold number of positive ways.  Doing yoga taught me to sweat the small stuff -- to let it out, to shed it, to keep my internal self safe and healthy as a means of keeping my external self much the same.

So here I am, writing about these things.  And I know I am choosing to write and think about them now because of a sense of crossroads I feel inside of me now.  I am actively striving to keep from repeating mistakes I've made in the past.  I am seeking alternatively routes and thinking long and hard about how to achieve the unachievable.  There may be no harder thing in life than changing a behavioral pattern.  Especially when love is involved -- especially then.  But change is part of the journey -- it's part of the extended practice.  Change shows learning and growth have pushed in and refused to take no for an answer.

This brings me back to Devon's class at O2 on Monday night.  That class, hard as all get-out, also involved an intense breakdown of the pieces of the vinyasa -- plank, pushup, updog, downdog.  Over and over and over again, Devon took us through these motions, more familiar than almost any other to a regular yogi, and this room was full of such practioners.  Breaking down a vinyasa is something usually reserved for a Basics class, not Power like this one was.  But Devon is a stickler about these fundamentals, as she should be, and she wanted to push us to do these things perfectly, not just automatically.  My entire body shook in the extended length of time we held each plank, listening to Devon's explanations of anatomy and physics, coaching specific students to do this or that to make the pose flawless, and my body shook even more when we lowered into chataranga, the yoga pushup, to listen to her do it all over again.  By the time we got to updog, everyone had a game face on and we all sighed in relief to return to downdog, a resting posture if there ever was one.  What Devon did was she made us think about this series of postures we do ad nauseum in every single class.  What she did was take the ordinary and showed us why it was extraordinary and why doing these seemingly routine functions served a higher purpose -- pay attention, this shit is important.  There's a reason we do this so many times in class and there's a reason we should be doing it correctly.  It was the perfect thing to spend time on in a Power class -- fundamentals are just important to experienced yogis as they are to beginners.  What I learned is a bad habit can begin and then slip through the cracks until someone takes the time to point it out.  How many things do we do in our daily routine that could use the same amount of extra attention?  There must be so many things.  Take a minute and figure out what they might be for you.  I am definitely taking that moment for myself.

It's healthy to sweat.  It's good to have that release, that return to equilibrium.  Unloading the small stuff makes room to deal with the big stuff -- it prevents what I like to call the "crumbs around the toaster" argument -- you know what I mean -- when you and your partner or your roommate or your friend or your mom get into a screaming fight because one of you isn't as tidy in the kitchen as the other.  Screaming about crumbs left around the toaster.  We all know these arguments have nothing to do with something so trivial and have everything to do with something bigger, maybe something unseen or unacknowledged.  But if you just said upfront when the waters were calm that, hey, it would be cool if you cleaned up a little, then when the time came to tackle the bigger issues, you could do just that instead of wasting time and energy on things that simply do not matter.

I am happy to be a woman in motion who sweats.  I am happy to be able to recognize how amazing this seemingly gross attribute is.  I will sweat all the small stuff right out of me until what's left is what needs to be there to keep me healthy.  And when my workout is over, I will be sure to drink plenty of water to be ready for the next time.  Hydrate, sweat, repeat.  This is one pattern I won't break.