Mom Things I Learn During Yoga #5: Don’t Jump.

Yogathon 2016I recently participated in Yogathon 2016 – it’s an annual, international event which raises money for a great cause (for more info, see here). Yogathon involves doing 108 sun salutations, and if, like me, you haven’t done much in the way of physical activity since your youngest was born, that is REALLY REALLY HARD. So there I was in the middle of Victoria Park here in downtown London, on the concrete area in front of the bandshell, with the hot sun beating down on my back while wearing all black, trying to follow only the second set of 20 sun salutations, which were being led at a pace well faster than I was hoping for. I found myself getting anxious: I shouldn’t have done this. What was I thinking? I’ll never be able to finish all of these. I shouldn’t have left my sunscreen in the car; I’m going to get sunburned. I should have put my mat in the shade off to the side – I’ll never make it in this heat.

And every thought that entered my head was not only a worry – it was also a conclusion that something bad was going to happen as a result of the thing I was worried about. I suppose that’s what worry is  – anticipatory regret. Expecting the worst and fixating on it, even though it hasn’t happened yet. And as I kept going through the movements of my sun salutations, my thoughts became clearer, as they often do during yoga. Here I was, in the middle of an activity I was doing just for me (and one of the only major activities I have done just for me in the last four months), and I was focusing all this energy on negative outcomes that might occur after it was over. I certainly wasn’t being present in the moment. I wasn’t allowing myself to enjoy the feeling of my muscles moving in tandem with all my peers who also love this practice. I wasn’t letting flow happen; I was resisting it even as I longed to get into the flow.

I’m not sure if I’m hardwired for it or if it’s just an entrenched learned behaviour, but worrying is my go-to response to many situations. I worry about my kids, my house, my finances, and my family. I worry about whether I’ve forgotten to do things and about whether I’ve adequately prepared for all sorts of possible turns of events in life. My default setting seems to be to jump to the conclusion that I will not be prepared, and that as a result, I will suffer some unnecessary negative consequences, which I will then kick myself for. What an exhausting way to live!

And an exhausting way to do my yoga practice, I discovered. The more I fixated on the potential ways in which my experience might be negative, the more difficult the practice became. I mixed up the order of the poses, and my movements felt choppy. My breathing felt shallower. My rhythm was off.

mountain-pose-815291_1920And then I just stopped. I knew everyone around me was continuing to move through their salutations, but I just stopped at the start of the next round and stood in mountain pose. “Don’t jump,” I repeated silently to myself. Don’t jump to those conclusions. Don’t leap into the deep end of negativity, assuming that what can go wrong will go wrong. Yes, it might go wrong, but what if it doesn’t? What if I don’t get sunburned? What if I can make it to the end? So what if I am sore for days afterward? It won’t be the first time I’ve experienced that and it won’t be the last. When I rejoined the group, I went with my own breath cycle. My movements became fluid, I could feel the rhythm of the salutations much more naturally, and my breathing deepened. I greatly enjoyed the rest of the practice, and yes, got all the way to the end.

That night, my new “don’t jump” mantra got tested off the yoga mat. Our youngest had developed the bad (read: uncomfortable and absolutely miserable for me) habit while we were cottaging for the past week of only falling asleep while suckling on my nipple. After a few nights, each with several hour-long bouts of him almost falling asleep and then waking himself up to re-latch a bajillion times before finally sleeping, I was raw, sore, and about to lose my mind. It was time to sleep train.

True to form, I braced myself and my husband for the worst. “Better go to bed early,” I heard myself saying, “it’s going to be a long night.” “Are you prepared for this?” I asked my husband. “This is when I became a horrible person last time,” I warned him, referring to my dark and twisty period with my first kiddo.

And then, what actually happened was that, yes, little R did cry on and off for an hour of progressive waiting sleep training, but then he went to sleep and… slept through the whole night. The next night, he cried for three minutes and then slept through the whole night again. Bam. I felt silly for being so prepared for the worst, and once again thought, what a waste of my energy! So I’m going to try to remember this newest in a string of mantras that have helped me through motherhood’s (and life’s) little tough bits. I’m going to try to remind myself when the worries start to loom:

Don’t jump.

Don’t jump to the assumption that you’re doing something wrong.

Don’t jump off the deep end of your worries and let them drown you so you can’t see the present.

Don’t jump – stay where you are, and let things happen before you judge them.

Don’t jump. Just be still for a moment.

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