Practice


It has been hot. So. Hot. So much hotter than it should reasonably be in June, even in Central Texas. We’re breaking heat records left and right. I think we’re well over two weeks with highs of over 100 degrees everyday. My husband and I, cheap hippies that we are, do not have central air. We do have a window unit in the main living area, and that thing has been on more in the last two weeks than it has been in the entire two years we have lived here. We sleep with four fans on full-blast. We take many showers a day, and it’s so bloody hot that we can’t even get the water cold enough to suit us. It comes out of the pipe lukewarm. That’s no joke. Of course the heat comes with a major drought, and so our yard–and the entire state of Texas, it would seem–is tan-colored, dry and crackling. I’ve caught myself daydreaming of living someplace where there are actual seasons, like Maine, places where it rains more than four or five days out of the year.

This could all get worse. It’s not even July yet.

So what’s a yogini to do, then, with all this heat? The yoga tradition that I study, Viniyoga, roughly translates to mean “appropriate adaptation.” Since my practice is about my whole life, not just what occurs on the mat, I’ve been taking that principle to heart: adapt, adapt, adapt. Here’s a list of the ways in which I’ve been coping.

  • Modify my practice. This is no time to work on developing core strenght. Already, the most moderate of sun salutations has me slick with sweat at 7am. When I do asana at all, either I don’t get up off the floor, or if I do, I move tai chi-slow. I’ve shifted my focus to pranayama, more specifically switching from pratiloma ujjayi, which is heating, to sitali pranayama, which is cooling and soothing. Already the effects have been very noticeable.
  • Seek relief. Almost everyday I go to the river. The San Marcos river is spring-fed, and although it is dangerously low this year, nearest the spring the water is fast-moving and very cool. About an hour of short dips interspersed with stretches of reading on the grassy shore (most recently, David Sedaris) is absolutely miraculous. Works even better if you keep your wet bathing suit on as long as possible afterwards. Also, the free wi-fi and free A/C at our local library have provided an invaluable refuge in these last weeks.
  • Eat light. Seriously. Smoothies and salads are basically all I want and all I can handle making right now. I’ve been obsessed with this one salad in particular. I make it with a can of straight up organic black beans. It is so yummy. It’s what’s for lunch two to three times a week–including today! I can’t wait. I’m also eating lots of fresh fruit, and have figured out that the trusty thermos that keeps my tea hot forever in the winter now keeps it cool just as long if not longer, so I fill it with tea and ice and keep it close at hand.
  • Forget about it. For years now I’ve wanted to learn how to sew, and have finally taken the plunge. I’ve been tethered to the sewing machine for hours most days, and I get so absorbed in what I am doing that I hardly care that I am damp with sweat.

Of course I am sparing you all the ways in which I am not coping, the whining and moaning, the troubled sleep, the eating of too much ice cream. I figure it goes pretty well without saying. But at least I am taking measures that are effective in making my days better, and being consistent with them. That is what skillful practice is all about.

Advertisements

One of my favorite yoga teachers, Angela, began the year with a series of classes whose theme was just start over.  This is very timely in January, which ushers in, along with the new year, the dreaded (dreadful?) tyranny of new year’s resolutions. Angela’s message at this time is that there is nothing wrong with wanting to change old habits or start new ones, but that if we are to make the journey a healthy one, we need to understand how difficult it is to alter our habits and that we would do well to build some compassion into the process. We all start out with soaring, exhilarating intentions–I am going to start a yoga practice, learn a new language, eat healthier, start and maintain a blog, what-have-you–but, inevitably (and it is inevitable!) we are going to miss a day, miss a month (or two), and our great hopes are shot to hell, so we might as well quit. Right?

Wrong. In Angela’s words, your level of success in any new endeavor shouldn’t be measured by how long or steadily you were able to do well, but by how well you are able to just start over. Deviations off the path are a healthy part of the practice. Can you have some compassion for yourself, perhaps a healthy chuckle, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and carry on down the road?   In one of the stories of the Desert Fathers that I cherish, an Abba was asked, “What do you do in the monastery?” His answer was, “We fall down, and we get up; we fall down, and we get up.”

You can make a new beginning–today. No need to wait for January; no need to mourn your losses. The Bhagavad Gita says, “On this path no effort is wasted; no gain is ever reversed.” So here I am, on a June day just before the summer solstice, picking up the pieces of my blog, and, in a spirit of humor and compassion, forging ahead.