It was an amazing day. The Bay Area Elite Formation Team’s last concert of the season had us performing our first-place ballroom medleys, individual solo dances and a yoga demonstration for friends and family. The trickiest part (for me)was the costume changes in between the eight performances. In fact, it was quite the joke amongst the team that I was “costume-changing challenged.” They gave me a rhinestone watch so that I might practice in the off season. Cute. However, what wasn’t a joke, was my inability to walk at about 3:00 pm that day. All the congratulations said, photos taken, and shoes put away. The concert was over, the season was over, and my body was done.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a very active person. I always have been. I really don’t know any other way. I prefer being busy. I am fortunate that I get to do this yoga and run a business with people I love being around (both staff and members). My new passion for ballroom dancing has meant practicing 12-13 hours a week. However, as you all know, when you add something new, all the other priorities don’t go away. It becomes more of a juggling act. The biggest area of compromise for me was sleep. A very bad idea as I’ve come to learn.
I frequently get acupuncture. I started years ago and Frank, my acupuncturist at Dao Healing Center, considers my treatments to be yin building. “Michele, I’ve come to know that my role is to help keep those oars rowing upstream,” he jokes. And, often we laugh about the “yang junkie” in me. I am grateful to him more so now as I understand his point on the effects of yin depletion. February 7 was the National Yoga Competition in Los Angeles that I participated in along with BYSJ Instructor, Paul Knisely. After that, I rolled right into dance competition season performing in the San Francisco Open and The Emerald Ball in Los Angeles with several concerts in between. During this time, BYSJ hosted Rajashree’s seminar for the entire Bay Area. Thank goodness for our great staff!
I tell you all this to impart my newfound wisdom: all the acupuncture, deep tissue massages, soakings with Epsom salt, applications of arnica and traumeel may temporarily soothe but over time, nothing works but – REST! Quite honestly, it took a scare to get me to stop. I was desperate as my legs were killing me. I was in a lot of pain. After the concert, May 9th, I took nine days off from everything, literally. No yoga, no dancing, no riding my bike (yes, I have a bike and that might be me you see on Winchester Blvd.) and I didn’t even drive but once. My father called frequently to inquire. “You can’t do it that long. Why?” “Well dad, I am trying to build yin,” I told my father knowing that this response would only make him more confused.
All this sounds grim. But, I hope you might feel this right along with me because, I am lucky. I really believe in my heart of hearts that the Universe always works in our best interests. Always. Those nine days were completely unexpected. It was the week of my birthday. Not what I had in mind as a way to celebrate, but, as it turned out, it was the best gift that I could have given myself. I watched movies. I read books. I worked at a slow pace. I meditated for longer than usual. I caught up with people. I am a Peet’s Coffee fanatic and go there daily to pick up coffee and leave. One regular has always asked me to sit with him and visit. To his surprise, that week when I saw him, I got my coffee and sat down next to him and stated, “I have time.” I made a point to observe myself in these days off. My goal was to calm my body. I soaked. I had massages. I slept. (I slept a lot.) I breathed deep into my tight muscles and joints. I used heat. I took cold plunges. JP, our Massage Therapist, has been giving me massages about once a month for the last year. He worked on me as if I was in physical therapy for my legs. I was in tears as he rubbed through some of the knots and lactic acid built up in my quadriceps. (If you haven’t had JP yet, do it soon. He is wonderful.) After our initial session the week after the concert, he explained that during the three months of intense activity, my body did not have a chance to recover. Lactic acid builds up and does not metabolize quick enough and gets “sticky.” It starts to bind muscle fibers, fascia, and tendons together resulting in less flexibility and a feeling of heaviness.
My added meditation in the mornings supported a heightened awareness throughout the day. I began to notice when my heart rate increased. It was a wave of anxiety. Where was that coming from? Surely this was not going to help my body relax. “Quiet” time gave me a chance to remove any distractions that might make it difficult to see when I was getting tense. This proved to be a chance to use the skills I acquired over the years practicing yoga: using my breath to regain equilibrium in the body and in the mind. Anxiety is a nagging visitor that tends to maintain its own schedule. I didn’t really care to analyze. I wanted to dispel it mostly. Breath work helped.
My first day back taking yoga was ugly. Whoa! Any of you in class that day with me saw me sit down. Yes. I sat out toe stand. Dizzy. In Triangle pose, first set, I was going to heave. I felt light headed – and nauseous. A humbling class. The next day was completely different. I missed my friend, yoga, and was entirely grateful to feel the stretch where I needed it, to feel the heat get in there and loosen joints and ligaments (especially my knees), and to take in the complete physical therapy that the yoga was providing. Yoga works in my best interest. All the time.
Someone asked me if I felt guilty taking the time off? The answer: not once. I have not been judgmental towards myself. I have been patient and feel empowered. The yoga is the most magnificent unconditional tool to all of us on this path. It was a gift to see yet another perspective. And you can too. Observe your process. Watch and allow the yoga to guide you to become something more than what you are today. I am grateful to have experienced this and welcome a transition to whatever’s next as I trust, whatever it may be, is in my best interests.