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My work week ended on a not-so-good note this past Friday, and I knew that if I drove straight home from the office I’d end up eating my feelings and drinking too much beer. In fact, on my way home, Bryan texted me to ask what I wanted for dinner.

Stromboliiiii!” I wrote back, because that is what I crave when I am overwhelmed. I mean, stromboli is the perfect food representation of feeling out of control. You’re just a shell stuffed to the brim with crap, ready to expel your guts the moment someone pokes you the wrong way.

Fortunately, instead of listening to the little stromboli devil sitting on my one shoulder, I gave attention to the angel of yoga sitting on the other. She whispered in my ear over and over again on my drive home that I needed to drive to the local yoga studio, change into the spandex pants sitting in my car, and do some yoga.

I was a bit hesitant because I have not taken a studio class in a very long time. I am very self-conscious about my hip situation and generally prefer to move about my own way in the privacy of my home, where I can jostle my leg and pop my sacrum without feeling like I’m disobeying the teacher. But I knew that I needed guidance that night, so I paid the $15 drop-in fee to try a new class and new teacher. Before class, I gave her the whole spiel about my hip and the poses I have to modify and how I sometimes have to stomp like a zebra between postures to get my leg feeling normal again.

As I sat there on my mat during the opening mantra, I realized that I was actually nervous. It has been so long since practicing yoga in public, and I was just deathly afraid that I’d get caught in a sequence of hip-centric postures that I would struggle with. It was such a different perspective than my old days of yoga, when I’d plop down on my mat without the need for a block or strap and just do pose after pose ever-so-effortlessly. But now I felt like a total newbie, not sure what was going to lie ahead and whether I’d be able to do it.

However, once we began our ujjayi breathing, warming up the spine, and eventually rising into easy Warrior sequences, I was in The Zone. I had had work on the brain since 8 a.m., and for once, I was blessed with 75 minutes of just me and my movement. We plastered ourselves against the wall for a supported half-moon pose, and instead of poo-pooing the notion of using the wall for a balancing pose, I allowed my back and head to nestle against the surface like it was a luxurious mattress. How great it felt to be upheld without struggle.

The class felt like it zipped by, and before I knew it I was wrapped in a blanket, doing nadi shodhana before settling down into savasana. The instructor came around and dabbed essential oil on my temples, gently rocking my head side to side before letting to relax in the center. (<—–THIS is why going to a physical class is SO MUCH BETTER than practicing at home. Ahhh, those soothing savasana touches.)

The class was everything I could have asked for—meditation, asana, pranayama, and a few chaturangas but not so many that my scapula ached—but unfortunately the studio was a little cooler than I would have liked for a class titled “Inner Fire.” Studio temperature is often a deal breaker for me, because, seriously, I should not have visible goosebumps on my arms while covered in a blanket during savasana. I may give the class another chance, but this is the same place I broke up with during the summer because they ran the air conditioner whenever the temperature rose above 80. And then this is why I began practicing at home, in my upstairs yoga room, where it gets deliciously hot and humid.

But for someone in need of a quick fix, soaking in 75 minutes of yoga was so much more satisfying than throwing back a shot. In fact, by the time I got back to my car, I wasn’t craving stromboli anymore and instead ended the evening with a delicious mushroom/pea masala from our favorite Indian place and a glass of red wine.

When was the last time you ignored the “stromboli devil” and said yes to yoga instead?

I don’t meditate as much as I’d like, especially because there used to be a time when I’d allow myself a solid 15 to 30 minutes almost every night to sit. Nowadays, my meditation is much more spontaneous than it is planned, and it usually occurs after a particularly satisfying home yoga practice or dance session.

As was the case last week.

As the clock struck 5, the evening felt like anything but a time to sit still and meditate.

I stayed at work way too late–I had finished “working” at the usual time but stayed glued to my computer for an extra hour, trying to catch up on everyone’s Twitter, blogs, and Facebook. I got sucked into the social media time warp and was disgusted with myself as I drove home in the cold and darkness. When I got home, all I wanted to do was Eat All the Things! I was especially craving a big, fat vegetarian stromboli, thanks to perusing a take-out menu that had come with the day’s stash of mail. I was already in a funk; I imagined myself just caving fully into that funk, devouring my sloppy stromboli cocooned in a nest made of blankets and soft pajamas and slipper socks, an episode of my latest Netflix guilty pleasure playing on the TV screen.

For a few seconds, that vision felt wonderful. But then I got realistic.

Really? You’re going to feel better after reading stupid Facebook posts all night and then stuffing your face with a greasy pocket of cheese? Really, Jen?

Image source: Flickr, willieabrams

I actually said aloud, “Do some yoga, Jen. Just go upstairs, do some yoga, and after an hour of some deep breathing see if you really still want that stromboli.” If the desire to be a sloth for the rest of the evening was still present after yoga, I knew it was meant to be. Yoga always sets me straight.

I opted to do one of my favorite Kripalu-at-Home yoga classes, an hour of moderate vinyasa flow with Coby Kozlowski.

Coby does these beautiful arm movements during one of the most intense poses, utkatasana, and I find that throwing a bit of upper body flow into the pose makes it much softer. Also, the last time I did this class, I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable during Warrior I, which she does in traditional Kripalu fashion, with the foot facing forward, ball of the foot pressed into the mat and the heel up. This time, I moved into the more well-known Warrior I, with the entire foot pressed firmly into the mat, turned out on an angle. What a difference! I felt so much more steady and enjoyed the sequence more than I ever have. Duhhhh. Listen to your body, Jen. Just because Coby does it one way doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same.

By the time we were on our backs for bridge pose, I was feeling pretty good. I felt present, and I was fully aware of my shoulder blades pressing evenly into the floor. I sunk easily into savasana, and when the video ended and the room became silent…

…I allowed the silence to continue.

I wanted to prolong this feeling of contentment and stillness. I felt cocooned, but not in a pajamas/blanket/pizza kind of way, but a cocoon of connection. My mind, body, breath, and brain were all connected, and, damn, it felt pretty good. Strombolis were the furthest thing from my mind.

And like that, without planning it out or setting up bolsters or timers or exotic music, I began to meditate.

I didn’t think too hard about it, and I tried not to force myself into getting into “the zone.” Many of my meditations result in me seeing a beautiful indigo glow that keeps growing and growing until I am immersed in a bubble of bluish-purple behind my closed eyes, but I didn’t want to force an outcome. I just wanted to be. I focused on my breathing, the physical sensation of air entering and leaving my nostrils.

For most of the sit, that’s all it was. My inhales and exhales. There were no colors or indigo pulses. I was OK with this. There was no chatter, and that’s all that mattered.

Then, out of nowhere, a very vivid image of an acquaintance flashed before my eyes. I rarely converse with this person, and our lives hardly intersect. But now this person was suddenly right there, in my face.

This person lives a simple, frills-free life. I know this person does not go home and stare at the computer screen, eyes glazing over from too many hours watching a Twitter feed continue to refresh. This person doesn’t get caught up in celebrity drama, fashion dos and don’ts, and all the mumbo jumbo that bombards our TV screens and radio waves. I’m pretty sure this person keeps work at work and doesn’t mentally carry home the petty woes and whining associated with a day on the job. I sometimes find myself questioning this person’s life because it just seems so…empty? Or maybe that’s MY definition of it, because my life has all these silly distractions and unnecessary, First-World mental dilemmas, like, Oh my god, I already had a Chobani at lunch; I can’t possibly get frozen yogurt later after dinner!!!!

Yet this person has the kindest smile, the softest voice, and always seems under control. Things get done, but not with teeth gritting or exasperated sighs or excessive eye-rolling. That evening as I meditated, it hit me that this person has many Buddhist qualities, a presence and peacefulness that says, “Everything is as it should be.”

Without warning, tears stung my eyes, yet before I could respond to this sudden punch of emotion, they were gone. Images of the person lingered in my brain, and for a moment I found myself wanting to embrace the qualities of this person that I so often dismiss and raise my eyebrow at. In my meditation, this person was a bodhisattva, an enlightened being, and I felt far from ever being considered the same. It gave me a new respect for this person but also disappointment in myself, and yet hope for self-improvement.

When I had first escaped upstairs to do some yoga, I never imagined I’d be coming back downstairs with a satisfying yoga and meditation session completed, a newfound and oddly deep appreciation for a semi-stranger, and a stirring connection with the elements of Buddhism.

The desire for the stromboli and a TV date with Netflix had passed, and instead I made myself a simple egg and cheese sandwich with a side of clementines, and sat down at the kitchen table to read the newspaper.

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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