When Savasana Smells Like Pee

When Savasana Smells Like Pee

My yoga teacher, like most yoga teachers, is always going on about how five minutes of savasana is equal to three hours of sleep. How they do that calculation I have no idea but this morning I could really do with an extra three hours of sleep. It’s been one of those weeks.

So I decided, screw it. Instead of spending another five minutes staring blankly at my screen trying to remember what I was working on, folding washing or throwing something in the slow cooker, I’m going to try it.

I opened my meditation app (which apparently needs to be updated because I haven’t used it in I hate to think how long) and set a timer for five minutes. I lay down on the ground, in the corpse position. It was quite easy, really – I kind of feel like a corpse most of the time anyway. I brought my attention to the tingling sensations of my muscles relaxing, the supportive feeling of the carpet beneath me. I made my mind body-shaped.

And each time my mind started to wander, I remembered the subtle threat in my yoga teacher’s tone when she explained how the magic five-minutes-for-three-hours-time-swap works – you have to really do savasana. Not just lay there thinking about whether or not the baby’s about to wake up, or if she’ll take a bottle later today, or the blog post you’re gonna write in a few minutes. So I took heed and let it all go, melting into the ground, bringing myself back to the present moment time and time again.

By the time the gong went off I was actually totally relaxed, tingly and floating. I slowly stretched my neck, turning my head from side to side and took a deep breath. Left was the baby’s change mat, so I probably rubbed my face on poo. Right was a distinct aroma of urine, and I was reminded that my toddler had an accident in that very spot a few weeks ago. Oops. Back to reality.

Do I feel like I had three hour’s sleep? Who knows. I can’t really remember what that feels like to be honest. But I do like to think my eyes are stinging a tiny bit less than they were earlier, and I might just lay on the floor and pretend to be dead for a few minutes tomorrow, too.

Aside

Babe, You’re Gonna Need a New Yoga Block

I’m on the way to work, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on my new one-hour daily commune, when my husband calls to update me on drop off. He sounds uncharacteristically defeated.

“Babe,” he says gingerly, “I think you’re going to need a new yoga block.”

I’ve got two options – laugh or cry. This week I’m choosing laugh. Last week was mostly cry.

It’s been a tough month. GG finished up at the daycare he’s been at (and loved) for two years. My grandmother passed away back in Australia. At 33 weeks pregnant I wasn’t able to fly over for the funeral and to be with my family. We moved cities. GG started a new kindergarten. And did I mention I’m a bit pregnant? Between my hormones, my husband’s exhaustion and our two-year-old’s emotional reactions… I don’t even know what words to use.

Last week the language that came to mind was pretty harsh. Now it feels like we’re a cartoon family. Toddler running out onto the road and peeing on things around the house to get attention (like my yoga block), me groaning and holding my lower back when I have to bend over to pick things up, the husband staying up late to get extra work done so we can cover our new mortgage. Oh so textbook and mundane.

When I’m my best self, which is only for fleeting moments right now, I remind myself that it’s all impermanent. That we’ll get used to our beautiful new house and all the arrangements that come with it, and GG will settle into his new kindergarten. That this testing behavior is totally normal for a toddler at the best of times – let alone during a month like this. That my pelvic floor will get better (right after it gets worse). That this too will pass….

And hopefully we’ll have a few days to enjoy the calm before I go into labor and we get to meet #2.

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Stay tuned for updates 🙂

The Opportunity Cost of Being a Mindful Mama

The Opportunity Cost of Being a Mindful Mama

Coming to terms with the new priorities in my life over the first year of parenting has been and continues to be a huge challenge for me. I’m finding it hard to accept that if I’m going to be the type of mother I want to be – mindful, present and intentional – other things need to give.

In practice, it’s all been pretty natural – my family is number one, health is up there – exercise, sleep, meditation and food alike – and though it’s at a slower pace than before my career is definitely still a factor.

So what does that look like in practice? Let’s start from the morning – though sometimes I still feel like there’s no real night and day, just the constant flow that I first met almost one year ago when Gadi was born. We wake around 6am and spend an hour or so together as a family. We eat, get ready, chat, cuddle, sometimes dance. This time is precious – crucial to anchor us all together in preparation for our days apart. We head off to daycare and our respective workplaces, where the baby has a ball and my husband and I do our best to do our little bit of good in the world (read: try not to fall asleep at our desks). On the three days a week that I pick Gadi up, we have about two hours together before bath and bed time.

That two hours feels like nothing. Not nearly enough time to properly reconnect, to ask and tell each other about our days – without words for now. To cuddle and play and eat and wind down. So I put my phone aside, I try to forget about work, and about all the things I want to get done once he goes to sleep. All the phone calls I want to return, blog posts I want to write, work calls I have scheduled for the evening. I want my attention on him 100%, and I want him to see that. Even if I’m just watching him play. I want to teach him about doing one thing at a time, about being where you are – and I think the best way to teach is by example.

Then we start the bedtime routine – which is sometimes easy and sometimes a bit more challenging and pretty much always exhausting. He’s asleep by 7pm. And to be honest, half the time I fantasize about snuggling up in his cot with him. I’ve been meaning to work out how much weight that thing can support for months now.

Evenings are important, too. Because when I say that family is a priority – I don’t just mean Gadi. The time that Uri and I spend together at the end of the day is a huge part of what keeps me sane and grounded. What keeps us together. What has made this past year the most amazing one of my life. Often all we manage is eating dinner and chatting on the couch before we both start to fade, but those moments are precious, too. Same goes for an episode of The Big Bang Theory or whatever we can manage to keep our eyes open long enough to watch. We collapse into bed together every night, exhausted but happy, and wake up – once if we’re lucky and three times if we’re not – through the wee hours to feed Gadi and help him get back to sleep.

One or two nights a week I might “make it” out of the house to meet a friend for dinner or a walk. I keep scheduling yoga classes in my diary for 8pm but I haven’t made it yet – once I’ve got the baby to bed it’s just so hard to get out of the house. I know my body would probably thank me for it but… I just don’t seem to manage it. Maybe once we’re sleeping through the night – if that ever happens. At this point I make it to one afternoon class and one weekend class – and that will have to be enough for now. My semi-regular meditation practice could do with some work too and ditto for running… but c’est la vie.

And weekends? My priorities don’t change. We love our time just the three of us. Sometimes at home, sometimes out and about, often eating. Most things in our household revolve around food and cuddles – and Gadi’s sleep. We enjoy time with friends and family, too – but nowhere near as much as I used to.

But my point was neither to share our routine nor to complain about it – I love every moment I just described. That is, unless I slip out of the moment and start thinking about the opportunity cost. About the phone calls I haven’t returned and the parties I don’t attend and the type of friend I used to be. Hour upon hour of phone calls helping my friends and family sort out their issues and mine. Minor and major alike. Bottles of wine. I loved those hours, and I miss them dearly – but I just don’t have them at the moment. Instead I’m choosing to spend them on real, present time with my family, on sleep, and on my own mental health.

It’s not my new priorities that I struggle with per say – it’s what I’ve had to let go of to put them into place. And I guess in some way I’m still coming to terms with the opportunity cost. I know that this is the way to be the type of mother and wife that I want to be – but at the same time, I miss the me of one or two short years ago.

When I do finally catch up with the dear people that I used to have so much more time for, I feel pressure to complain. To complain about being tired, and about how hard it is to be a mother, and about the laundry. But honestly, that’s not it for me. My challenge is learning to accept where I am right now, to respect it and embrace it.

Otherwise, how can I expect anyone else to understand?

How to Make Your Mind ‘Body-Shaped’

How to Make Your Mind ‘Body-Shaped’

The resting pose at the end of pretty much every yoga sequence, Savasana (pronounced ‘Shavasana’ – the corpse pose), is surprisingly difficult to master. Far harder than a headstand, a complicated balance or an intricate bind.

And yet it’s a crucial pose – said to allow the body to absorb the benefits of the yoga practice, restorative for the mind and body.

Despite appearances, it’s more that just flopping on the ground like you’re dead. Yes, you need to relax your body. Unclench every muscle, let your feet flop out to the side, really become one with the floor. Surrender the weight of your physicality to the forces of gravity. But the key – as in most things – is in the mind.

The mind must stay active, present, sharp. And yet restful. Whereas throughout the yoga practice you’ve been noticing your breath, your muscles, your alignment, in savasana you pay attention to the space in between, the resting, the tingling feeling of nothing – of the absence of movement. You seek out that delicate, exact concentration that sits between thinking and letting your mind drift, and hold it steady on the most subtle of sensations.

So simple and yet so incredibly complicated.

For many years, savasana was a battle in my mind. Without the active, dynamic flow of yoga on which to to pin my focus, the thoughts came flooding back. And as I ostensibly relaxed on my mat, inside my head I was taking up arms, a metaphorical sword and shield, bravely trying to fight off each thought as it arose. Convinced that this was the game – stopping my thoughts dead in their tracks.

And then one day a few years ago, I just got it. My mind finally found where it was meant to be and somehow slipped into place.

I should note that for others – perhaps less Type A than me – the tendency is to drift off to sleep in savasana, rather than to get lost in thought. It’s the same, really – just the other end of the spectrum. Sleep is just as far from the point of this posture as my warrior-like thought fighting.

Yesterday I was settling into savasana at the end of a fantastic Ashtanga class, and I realized what it is: You need to make your mind “body-shaped.” Instead of letting your mind swish around in your head, where we tend to imagine it lives, you need to pull it down into your body, let it flow down your neck and spine, along your arms and your legs. Squish it into your fingers and toes and allow it to pool in your lower back and buttocks. And then let it settle there and observe.

Because when it’s “body-shaped” rather than “head-shaped,” your mind can “think” about your body, rather than your thoughts. It can really notice the release in every muscle, the feeling of the body touching the floor, the slow, rhythmic rising and falling of the chest and abdomen. It can be totally aware of the physical relaxation.

And now I realize – this is true for all mindfulness practice. If you want to be mindful of washing the dishes, you need to make your mind “hands-shaped.” You can’t feel the water on your skin with your head – you need to “think” with your fingers. Same goes for mindful walking, mindful showering – anything you want to do mindfully.

It’s a mental shift that changes more than just change your “point of view” – it changes the very nature of your mind. From being primarily concerned with thoughts and other mental phenomena like emotions, to noticing the changing sensations of the body. As the father of quantum physics Max Planck is quoted as saying:

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. 

It’s a small, conceptual change, but it has tremendous power.

And in case you’re wondering, no – the irony of my mind imagining up blog posts while it’s meant to be down in my body, focusing on savasana is not lost on me.

Stay tuned for natural (to me) continuation of this post: How to Make Your Mind “Baby-Shaped.”

The 5 Worst Pieces of Pregnancy Advice

The 5 Worst Pieces of Pregnancy Advice

One of the great things about being pregnant is the host of unsolicited advice I get wherever I go – from family, friends, service people, strangers on the street, real estate agents, and so on. I don’t like being told what to do at the best of times, so you can imagine how fun this has been for me. I hear small children have the same effect, though I’ve not yet had that dubious honor. It’s one thing while the little dude is still in utero – I can only imagine how I’m going react when strangers presume to tell me how to raise our child.

Of course, not all advice on pregnancy is useless and stupid. Some tips (like eat well, get sleep, exercise, give yourself a break if you want to spend the night on the couch eating chocolate every now and then, etc.) are worth listening to – probably pregnant or not. But most of these gems… I could do without.

Here are my favorites so far:

1. Russian remedy to treat pesky hormone headaches: A teaspoon of brandy or cognac under the tongue. And leave it there as long as possible. I should add that this tidbit was contributed by a chatty masseuse this past weekend, who later told me about a crazy craving she had (and gave in to) during one of her pregnancies. A bottle of vodka. “The body wants what it wants.” Mmmhm.

2. “Everyone will try to tell you what to do. The trick is to ignore them all and do what you want to do. One thing I will say though….” Credits to my brother, a new father himself, for this contribution. It’s uncanny how many people start their sentences like this.

3. “Oh, that’s just gas.” Seriously? I’m 30. I’ve had gas before, I know what it feels like – something just freaking kicked me! It baffles me how many people think that because they’ve had one baby they know exactly what’s going on in my abdomen. Even my obstetrician gets that she doesn’t know everything and there’s a huge spectrum of experience!

4. “Don’t go to the gym/exercise/run/do yoga.” Again, seriously? And don’t even get me started on how most of the geniuses dolling out this advice come from an era in which a beer a day was recommended for strong pregnant women, and cigarettes were still healthy.

5. “Growing fetuses need meat.” Okay, I’ll concede that maybe some people need meat to absorb iron, but I don’t – never have. In 17 years of being vegetarian my iron has never been low, my B12 was even too high once, and (until I fell pregnant), I basically only get tired if I pull all-nighters. Next person to give me dietary advice without a record like that or a degree in nutrition gets a punch in the head.

End rant. Stay tuned for “Worst Baby Advice Ever,” and the return of pregnant-vodka-lady.