The Sane Asylum

I’m a busy lady, and never more so than since we opened Yoga Nook @ Fifth and started this year’s yoga teacher training. Sometimes I feel the weight of the work on my shoulders. The buck stops with me, and the responsibility for bills, taxes and employees can be heavy.

But I’m lucky — I have a place to escape to, and when I feel stressed I can make a cup of tea and imagine for a moment that I’m up in the mountains in our quiet house with just the sound of crackling fire and the tick of the living room clock. I see myself curled up with a book in the cozy, fireside chairs, a snow storm raging outside.

It’s hard to find time for ourselves. There are so many things clamoring for our attention: kids, work, spouse, family. The days seem jammed with work, chores and responsibilities, and in the evenings we’re so tired that frequently all we can manage is a few hours stuck in front of a TV screen.

What we all need is space, a place we can call our own. A space where we can post a “do not disturb” sign and stop the frenetic wailing of the world.

But where? Perhaps you have the luxury of a spare bedroom that could be converted from a junk catch-all to a safe haven. Maybe you could find a corner of the garden that’s secluded, or a patio area that could be dressed up.

One of my girlfriends invested in a small garden shed, added French windows and made a summer house for getting away from it all. You needn’t be as extravagant as that (though it was a blissful space) — it could simply be a corner of your bedroom.

Fill it with art and books, and surround yourself with the things that give you pleasure. Perhaps a comfortable armchair for reading or meditation, or some space for your yoga mat or a rug to stretch out on. Get a small fountain so you can enjoy the sound of water, light a few candles and include some plants if you have a green thumb.

Aim to spend some time in your “Sane Asylum” every day, reading or writing, meditating or just musing. Set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes and take a vacation.

A sacred space inspires creativity, promotes relaxation and gives us room to unwind. Once your family gets the idea that you are meeting a personal need with a time-out, and that you are withdrawing in order to be more present when they need you, they’ll start to respect your space.

When we nurture ourselves, we are able to give more freely to those around us. Invest in yourself — you are worth it.


Image credit: Lorianne DiSabato via Flickr (CC)

Memory Thread

I’ve been sick this week. I have a cold that won’t quit, despite liberal dosing with over-the-counter meds. The cold has to run its course — there’s no cure except time and plenty of fluids. So I wait. I spend a bit of time frustrated that I’m sick with so much to do. Then I surrender, lying on the couch for an afternoon nap.

Soon I’m shuffling around the house feeling sorry for myself and having long conversations with my dogs. It’s not long before this sloth irritates me so much that I find something to do. I may not be well enough to teach, but I need to occupy my brain. I’ve had a sewing project in mind for Yoga Nook @ Fifth, so I set up my sewing machine and pull out a large hat box full of thread.

The women in my family all have giant receptacles for thread, buttons, ribbon and notions. We are all fixers, menders and creators, and as a child I would spend hours organizing my sister’s coveted sewing box. It was like a time capsule with samples of fabric, thread in all the colors of the rainbow and every type of fastening imaginable, including some spare stocking hold-ups to repair old garter belts.

I smile as I open my own treasure box and run my fingers through the textures and colors of past projects — buttons from old sweaters and coats, glass beads and thread. I must have over a hundred spools of thread, and the one that’s just the right shade of purple used to belong to my mother. My mind is drawn to her with this spool of thread. It winds back a lifetime of over 40 years to a little girl’s bedroom and purple floral drapes (it was 1970, after all).

My mother was poorly educated — a result of poverty, war and low expectations — but she was very creative. She made dresses and skirts, coats and blouses, as well as drapes and home furnishings. If she thought she could sew it, she would. Look in the Wiktionary under “make a silk purse of a sow’s ear,” and there’s a picture of my mother at her sewing machine. My sister and I were both genetically predisposed to sewing, and my dolls were the best-dressed in the neighborhood.

In the ancient language of Sanskrit, the word “sutra” means string or thread, which can also be translated as a string of consciousness or thought. In Yoga, the sutras are a set of 196 terse statements that guide the yoga student towards enlightenment. As I start to unwind the spool of purple thread, I’m struck by the literality of it all, and I think I see just a flash of insight.


Image credit: Marcy Leigh via Flickr (CC)

Beginner’s Mind

I hope you all had an enjoyable holiday season and good times with your family and friends as you celebrated the end of 2015 and the beginning of the New Year.

I always look forward to these first few weeks in January. It’s like starting a new page in a fresh notebook or diary. We have no idea what adventures, joys or challenges the New Year will bring. There’s a certain sense of anticipation in the air, mixed with a little dread (tax season approaches!) — but overall there’s an impulse to move on, get ahead, start something new.

At the Nook, new students will be walking through the front door. They are immediately obvious, as they’re usually standing around in the vestibule with a deer-in-the-headlights look on their face. They may feel vulnerable, as if it’s the first day at school. They don’t know if they’ll like the class or understand what to do, and most of all they are afraid of failing.

Many of these new students will be taking their very first yoga class and are anticipating an experience based on impressions from media or celebrities. Often they are surprised by the amount of movement their body is capable of and the support that teachers and other students give them.

They don’t yet know it, but they’ve just walked into a yoga community, an extended family of people with like minds who are all experiencing the same adventures, joys and challenges.

You have walked in their shoes; you understand their concerns and fears. A friendly word or helping hand can dissuade their anxiety. As dread and doubt melt away, they can relax in the comfort of knowing themselves on a deeper level.

Gradually teachers and fellow students will become familiar to them, and soon it will be hard to imagine class without their mat next to yours. Indeed, there’s a new and unexpected satisfaction in watching someone try, achieve and grow.

Through that observation, you have an opportunity to remember what it’s like to have beginner’s mind, revisit your own experience and explore anew. Look for someone you can help in the coming weeks, and let’s welcome one and all to our warm and friendly space.

Do you remember your first class? Share your experience with us in the comments. 


Image credit: Antanas Kaziliunas via Flickr (CC)