Saturday, January 26, 2008

Empty your mind.

My first instinct there is to say, "Don't tell me what to do!" Which of course I never mean, but it makes me laugh. Like when someone says, "Have a seat," and I respond, "Don't tell me what to do!" They're always so shocked. (FYI, you can pretty much always tell me what to do and I may well just do it. I'm the youngest.)

So, empty your mind. It's a thing in Yoga. Now your instructor knows that that is very difficult to do, so she/he encourages you to address thoughts as they come and go, but don't get fixated on them. Just acknowledge them and let them pass. HA! Well, actually, I am way better now (insert Zoloft comment here). I can often focus on my breathing, the deep in and the deep out. Sometimes I can do that for up to, say, one breath cycle. Then my mind wanders. But I bring it back!

What I've noticed now is that my mind tends always go to the same places. Yes, if I'm really really obsessing about something, I may go there. Like when I first started getting close to my boyfriend and I couldn't stop reciting his fabulously complicated German/Polish name over and over again like a mantra - a very attractive and distracting mantra.

But no, I mean very specific places every time. I suppose it makes sense that when class is starting and we're breathing and I'm emptying my brain (all over the floor) that I go to the old YMCA in Ann Arbor, Mich. That's where I first began Yoga in, I'm gonna say, 1993. And then I think of my boyfriend at the time. I'm gonna call him John, what with that being his name and all. We took Yoga together. I don't ever think of him, except in Yoga class, which means I think about him all the time. But that's okay, he was a nice guy.

I don't just go to the Y, though. I go to certain areas of Ann Arbor. I go West (???) on Liberty (???) (Dude, I haven't lived there in 13 years.). I always go West on Liberty. But the Y was in the other direction, so why am I going to this side of town? I picture myself out by Stadium Way. I think about the Thai restaurant there. And I also inexplicably think of my sister's (and my) friend who was our age but rather scandalously married a MUCH older, albeit sexy, professor. Why do I think of her? And her house? And sometimes I think about my brother's old girlfriend who stayed a family friend and who was "very wealthy" by her own admission and lived in just a lovely apartment on, maybe Liberty? and it had lovely French doors. Or lots of windows. Or glass in some way. I do think she and the professor-marrier both lived on a similar route, but route to where? Where has my brain been going in Ann Arbor for nigh on 15 years?! And do the ears of these people tingle at least once a week when I'm thinking about them for a few fleeting seconds in Yoga before I acknowledge them and let them float away?

For a few years I thought of my most recent old boyfriend during Yoga and I didn't care for that. And that happened because one instructor used to take us through guided meditation and describe a golden light flowing through our bodies and my sister Julia once told me she pictures it more like a golden liquid not unlike the scrolling back-lit beer sign on the wall at the club 14 Below in Santa Monica. I think she said that when were were actually at that bar, because just pulling that sign out of her ass like that would have been odd. And one time we saw my old boyfriend (though he was current at the time) play there and it was the first time I'd seen him in a while because he'd been touring and I gave him the scarf I'd knit him and it looked very good on him and he was standing in front of that scrolling back-lit beer sign with the golden liquid flowing through it. I don't even go to that same yoga teacher nor does anybody guide my meditation but for years I was still thinking of him against my will. I don't anymore, which pleases me.

I also think of the first time I ever learned a specific move in Yoga every freaking time I do that move again. (I'm gonna say "time" a couple of more times here: time time time.) What I remember are the phrases my teachers used (and what's freaky, though comfortingly consistent is that other teachers use those phrases sometimes, too.). I remember Mary, my teacher at the Y telling us, when in a forward fold, to hang our heads like a grapefruit on a stem. For 15 years I've repeated that to myself when hanging my head. It's very helpful. Really stretches your neck. And every time I go into downward-facing dog I remember when Beverly (the guided meditation user) first put her hand on my upper back and smoothed it to get me to relax it down and forward. I still have Beverly ghost hand there. And being told to imagine I'm between two panes of glass when in triangle pose. That's actually a pretty common image. My new English Yoga teacher (she's English, not the Yoga) said that very thing this past Monday. And in final resting pose, I want to shout out to my fellow students that it works really nicely if you imagine you're in a rapid flowing stream floating on your back and someone is gently cradling your head in their hands. It's so handy, I want to shout to them. I don't, of course, because that's just not Yoga (like that's ever stopped me before).

So, thank you ladies and gentleman, that's where I go in Yoga: Ann Arbor, Mich. It's a lovely place to visit. I recommend you only go in the Fall or the Spring (the weather, you see, is generally god awful).

No comments: