Slow Down, Breathe, Let Be

The universe sometimes has a way of making us slow down, throwing a wrench in our rhythm, challenging our why’s. But it’s incredible that we’ll always make it through.

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few months since my car accident and slower-than-I’d-like recovery. I was hit head on by another driver who was distracted and cross the center line right into me without warning or her braking. Initially, gratitude and rest were all I felt and wanted. I was so grateful that I walked away from the impact, grateful I had been wearing my seat belt, grateful my physical strength had braced my body from worse whiplash, grateful for a team at work and team at the yoga studio that were understanding, grateful for friends who were so supportive, grateful I was alive. With the effects of the concussion and physical trauma, I just wanted to sleep- long naps every day, to bed early, letting my body do what it needed to do to heal. The skilled professional hands of the chiropractor, physical therapists, acupuncturist, and massage therapist that worked (and still work) on me  brought a gratitude for their passion for what they do with their healing touches. They have helped (and still help) my body relax, cleanse, and calm.

Stagnation crept in. I have always been an on-the-go type of girl. I like to move. Just the weekend before the accident I had taught yoga, taken a cross fit class, led an event for my fitness nonprofit, and did a 5k with friends. It felt so foreign to me to be laid up with discomfort and the inability to move around much, let alone the inability those first few weeks to think straight. Even to this day, my body craves the physical and emotional release that comes from pounding the pavement for 10 miles, covered in sweat, spent. Now a warning: this isn’t a triumphant blog post where I learned to savor the relaxation- I’m still very much working through the antsiness and mental struggle with this.

Through some hard conversations with a close friend a month ago, I was able to articulate for the first time some of the frustration and start to pick at the root of the issue. For those of us who have been very healthy, very energized, very strong in our past, we’re used to hard workouts and the pride that comes from pushing hard (within our bounds).   So if I love running, why not just go for a walk around the block? It’s a bratty, “what good will that do” mentality. Sometimes we’re not able to get in a typical workout like we used to, maybe because of injury, or because that day’s workout window of time we had anticipated got slashed to mere minutes b/c of something out of our control popping up, or maybe we’re just emotionally having a really rough go with something in life and we’re not “in the mood” to do anything, or maybe we’re having a health concern, are pregnant, or just had a baby. Why don’t we just tone it down and go for a walk around the block? Get in something, anything, for physical movement? Why can’t we be ok with a 5 minute workout instead of the longer time frame we had wanted? Why don’t we make it to a seated and chill restorative yoga class instead of the amped up challenging strength class we had wanted?

Last night I took a barre class, my first time in a fitness class in 2 months. It was hard. I was only able to do about half of the things the instructor asked us to do. But surprisingly my ego was ok with that. Old Sarah ego might have been frustrated with herself, but this new post-accident Sarah was proud to feel a little burn again, to light up abs and glutes, to sweat a little. I’m no zen goddess, but I have to celebrate the little things: I was pretty chill with myself and I was proud of what I did. Class was actually pretty awesome.

Later on last night, I taught a restorative yoga class and my message to the students was about letting things just be. When we come into a yoga stretch like a seated forward fold (I like baddha konasana w/ bottoms of feet together, knees out wide, drape body forward, let head hang loose), we initially think we’re pretty relaxed, but then if we just hang out there, slow steady breathing, consciously melting the places that throughout the day we subconsciously clench, turn of the resistance of the tiniest muscles, we sink and deepen into the pose. When you think you’re as deep as you can stretch, just turn off the struggle, soften, and that’s where even more depth comes.

A running tip in ChiRunning by Danny Dryer is to not fight your way down hills. Sometimes we try to lean back when going down a hill, and just end up putting exponential pressure downward on our poor knees and ankles. Just let it be. Fly down the hill (when it’s safely runnable). “Relax your mind and surrender to the speed…relax everything from the waist down…lean downhill….relax your low back” (page178-179). Resisting, clenching, and fighting too much means hurt. It’s kind of a universal principle for everything in life!

So what does that mean for me off my mat? I’m going to let things be instead of wasting energy or frustration on wishing they were a certain way. I’m going to be ok with walking and slow jogging, instead of long-distance running. I’m going to be ok and even excited going to fitness classes where I do perhaps half of what the instructor cues. Anything is better than nothing. The universe is teaching me humility.

Let go of the need to do it how you always used to do it, whether intensity, time, or distance. Let go of the rigidity of routine. Embrace change. Challenge the ever-elusive idea of normal. Things not going how you wanted them to go is the only possible normal. Roll with the punches. Be ok with different plans. Embrace the fact that you’re alive, that you have the physical ability to move a little. Be grateful for every minute of every day. Turn off the struggle, turn off the friction. Ease up, let things be, go with the flow, let go of frustration, and then there’s energy for the good things in life.

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