Today was a first. I got up at 6:15 and rode to work with Mr. Early Bird - in the dark - voluntarily. Not because I had to be at a meeting and needed to be sure I got there earlier than usual. Because I wanted to.
I've said many times, I don't do "early." I've been a night owl all my life, resisting sleep as long as I could, making up for it well into the morning. In fact, I haven't had to resist since about 1969 - my brain is just set on Night Life Standard Time, and hauling my butt out of bed before dawn is ugly, if not downright traumatic.
But I hadn't been able to make it to yoga class for over a week, and there was a class scheduled for 7:30 a.m. at the fitness center. So Ed dropped me off at Java Brewing Co. at 7 a.m. on the button - I think the "open" sign had just come on - and I was upstairs, sitting on my mat, barefoot with almond-hazelnut latte in hand, at 7:22.
I've decided I need to do Thursday mornings more often. There were only two of us and the instructor, and apparently, that's how it usually is in the early morning class. It was different - there are usually 15 or 20 in the afternoon classes - and it was easier to get centered and go deep into the practice. We got 1:1 help lining up body parts: I found once I learned what it feels like to have my hips squared, it wasn't hard, but I hesitate to plant my feet as wide apart as I need to, and apparently, that's why I wobble a lot of the time.
This is part of my training for next year's long rides. In fact, at the moment, it's the only halfway-consistent part of my training... People keep scheduling me into unduckable meetings at noon, for God's sake, on Body Sculpting days. And - all apologies to y'all who ride in Flagstaff and Wasilla - I just have a real hard time getting out on the bike when it's black as night and 31 degrees with a wind chill of 22! So I try, but yoga is as close as I get to a sure thing most weeks.
Part of it is the core strength training. You don't know until you've done it how much work it takes to go from a Runner's Lunge to a Downward Facing Dog to a Plank to a Baby Cobra, and in between, stretches pulling knee to chest with the opposite hand reaching far out in front of you. I'm not talking about stretching muscles you didn't know you had. I'm talking about breaking a sweat.
For me, though, it's just as much about balance - something I've never had much of. I've always been flexible; before the arthritis set into my knee, I was pretty much "rubber-band girl," and I can still bend from the hips and put my palms flat on the floor. But I always kind of figured most people had one or the other - flexibility or balance - and my gift wasn't balance. I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was almost 10, and it took me five months from the time I got the bike to the time I learned to stay upright for the width of the back yard. Walking curbs or stepping stones was always a challenge. Even now, I sometimes turn too quickly and go down hard. (Which, BTW, is the reason for the severe arthritis in one knee but not the other. I always land on the left one ... and kneecaps can only tolerate so many full-body-weight whacks on blacktop or terrazzo before they start to fall apart.)
I learned a couple of things this morning, in addition to keeping my hips squared while holding Pigeon pose. The first is that, contrary to my gut feeling, I'm not more stable when I plant my feet a comfortable distance apart. When I pushed my limits - when, at Ashley-Brooke's insistence and even (gentle) physical prodding - I stretched the right another four inches forward and the left another two or three inches back, then I was able to rise and stretch from the Runner's Lunge to Warrior pose and not tip over like a little teapot.
The second thing I learned in conversation as we ended practice, and it grew in my consciousness the rest of the day. My classmate commented that she liked it better when there were only a couple of us, and I agreed. For some people, it may be more awkward; they're more conscious of what they can't do, more anxious about everyone looking at them. For us, it was easier to quiet our minds with not as many people in the room. For me, it was easier to turn off conscious thought and just feel - a very right-brained kind of practice.
I work with words all day, every day. Even at home, when I have time to sit down, I'm writing. (Okay, except when I'm crocheting, which is not nearly enough with Christmas coming!) When I get to yoga class, I need to turn off the words. When push comes to shove, I am a right-brained person, and even though I love writing, I get overwhelmed by all the words much of the time. My friend Georgianna laughs about that - when we get together, she talks and talks and I nod and nod - but that's part of why I love her. It gives me a chance to turn my words off for a bit. Georgie talks for both of us. ;-)
But turning those words off isn't easy. As much as they wear on me, I love them, and it's hard to let them go even for a little bit. And in a room full of people, the "collective consciousness" can be intense. An intuitive person can be bombarded with everyone's anxieties, everyone's self-consciousness - all that intense focus, even - and the right brain can get shouted down.
So even going to yoga class a couple times a week, I spend a lot of time off balance. Not just physically. And as the day went on, I became aware of what the psychic "off-balance" was doing to me.
Later today, I encountered a couple of situations where I was suddenly angry. The anger was justified in both cases, but it seemed out of proportion, at least from where I was sitting. (That would be the "I" who was sitting back watching "me" feel angry.) Why? Because words weren't helping me. In one case, my words were being requested, but then rejected - an editing job that was apparently just for show. I had to ask the client, "If they're going to blow off all my edits, why am I doing this?"
In the other situation, I was acutely aware of the disconnect between what was being reported in a meeting and what was actually going on - but I couldn't say anything. It wasn't the time or place for pronouncements or argument; it would have made things worse instead of better. I had to step back and let it go.
The words let me down, and I didn't know what to do. I haven't been working my intuition enough. I'm off-balance.
Here at the end of an old year, I'm intentionally evaluating and plotting the course for next year. There's something very important about this whole "balance" thing - I need to let the idea marinate for a bit. I think it may have a lot to do with the new year.