“Stop torturing yourself, man! …Live in the now!” —Garth from Wayne’s World
Risking ridicule and pointing fingers in my own household (kids can be cruel), I continue to slip into yoga comas regularly.
That may not be a welcome sales pitch for the practice, but trust me when I say I mean that in a good way.
I’m not certain what people envision when they hear the word yoga. Some might imagine a bald creature with big ears and a robe. That would be Yoda. Not the same.
Others might see a bald man with a balloon belly sitting cross-legged. That’s Buddha. Not relevant for my purposes.
Admitting upfront that I do it for fun, flexibility and health excuses me from backing up any kind of medical claims or warnings. But anyone who has had anxiety and looked for help to deal with it, either online or in person from a reliable source has probably heard about breathing. Not just breathing. But b-r-e-a-t-h-i-n-g. Intentional, controlled, deep belly breathing, where each inhale and exhale is a really big deal.
It works. And combined with other sometimes intense, sometimes awkward moves, it also works for flexibility, stomach cramping, bloating and various other “ings.”
I have a girly condition called mittelschmerz (a real word) and I am starting to figure out how to make it work for that, too. On a related note, for the ladies out there, I believe Midol and the downward facing dog pose could be the components of magical fairy dust.
Another big part of yoga moves is focus. Live in the moment, channel your effort, etc. That is one major part that can be a major challenge.
One video is set on a veranda on a Hawaiian beach. Obviously, that cruel backdrop does very little to calm my mind in the beginning. This is where imagination—and practice—come in handy.
The last time I popped in this video, the instructor’s voice was calm and steady, as you would expect it to be. But in the background, during stretches of time when she is not talking, the crashing of the waves and the swaying palm tree branches are all that can be heard. Turns out I was not as in the mood for a fake beach as I had hoped.
I continued. Move one: a sun salutation. Very basic, nothing more than standing and raising your arms over your head, tilting your head back and looking up. Which I did before opening my eyes. What I saw was not a grand illusion of a Hawaiian sky—which I can occasionally force my brain to muster—but a dirty ceiling fan. Blade after blade (after blade after blade after blade) of dust.
“Lower your arms and repeat the movement,” she said.
OK. Focus. Eyes closed. Deep breath. Hands to the sky, head back. Dust.
This was not starting out as the relaxing pocket of time that it could have been. This was not an illusioned island oasis in the middle of a quieted and emptied mind. This was a dirty ceiling fan in the middle of snow and 20-degree Kansas temps. And any minute I expected to be interrupted by giggles from children who would love nothing more than a chance to laugh at me.
This is where I should have thought about breathing. Flexing. Stretching. But all I could think about were five blades of dust. I should clean those *!$&%$ ceiling fans.
Or…I could quit looking up and hit the couch with a blanket and a bowl of ice cream. How these frustrations lead to couch potato road is a mystery to me, but there you go.
So I pushed through, mentally scolding myself every time I found more dirty blades than refreshing breaths during the sun salutations. It may not have been my most productive 30 minutes, but I gave them all to Miss Hawaii and her smooth jazz voice.
It did eventually bring on the calm—which is the total opposite of how a bowl of ice cream makes me feel (literally, physically, mentally).
I can’t deny there is something to be said for curling up on the couch with a blanket. I’ve had experience with both. But by now, shouldn’t I know that a yoga coma is better than an ice cream one?