It’s six am and as I’m writing, I’m listening to the sound of the bread machine making dough for cinnamon knots. I’ve got another batch in the refrigerator waiting to be baked. I never bake. What’s up? Yoga is up.
My yoga crew and I are set to sit down today at 10 am to finalize the details around teaching this fall and there’s just something about working with this group of women that compels me to make food.
Why? Who knows but one observation we made is our compulsion to eat sweets during our training. It became a bit of a joke. We started our training on Friday nights, right after work, 5 pm – 8. Saturday’s morning practice started at 7 am sharp – as in you wanted your feet on the mat not later than 6:58 am. We’d break for breakfast after morning practice, have classes and another practice just before lunch. After lunch, more classes and a coffee break mid-afternoon. It was this mid-afternoon coffee break that was interesting. We were a group of eight women who rarely ate sweets and we’d be jonesing for the goodies by this mid-afternoon coffee break. Double chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raison cookies, dark chocolate bars, lemon squares, lime squares – line it up and pour me another cuppa joe. One day, Kathryn forgot to put out the cookies before taking the dogs for a walk and the class lost it. We searched every cupboard in the kitchen until we found the goodies. I’d just like to add that generally speaking, we’re not the kind of people who would come to visit and then lay waste to your kitchen cupboards under normal circumstances.
Sugar, salt and oils are inherently comforting foods. We were into the goodies because we felt emotionally unsettled by the intensity of yoga training. There’s no way around it – three postural practices in less than 24 hours with a big old dab of theory thrown in on top, shakes up your routine and rattles your brain. We were clawing at the cupboard doors looking for a chemical route back to “normal”.
Yoga is not neutral at any time. We don’t do this stuff because it has no effect. We do it because it does have an impact on us. At the end of the day, yoga helps us find more balance in our lives but I’m convinced it does so by knocking us off balance by changing our habitual patterns.
I’ve recently had some sessions with Adam Ridgewell, an osteopath working in Fredericton about some physical problems I’ve been having, particularly with my left shoulder. For me it was very interesting to listen to his observations about my body movement. During one part of the assessment session, Adam was standing behind me and watching me as I bent forward. I would go over in classical uttansana – from the hip crease, spine ironing board straight, neck engaged, danda preserved, nose following the mid-line, release through the arms and shoulders after the movement of the spine had stopped. He had me do this a couple of times and then he asked me to “just collapse” into a forward bend.
It was interesting to compare the two forward bends. My “natural” forward bend isn’t about ironing board backs. I still start from the hip crease but my right shoulder drops and leads my body into the forward bend. My entire torso rotates slightly to the left. My left shoulder hangs back and is the last to join the party.
This is where yoga does its work on me. For a brief moment in time, when I’m in practice, I’m working against this natural body twist. Using body, mind and breath, my descent to the floor is controlled, smooth and without any twisting to the left or right. This is where the musculature on my back starts to change. Some muscles are softened and other muscles are strengthened. Slowly, gradually and with great gentleness, my body learns another way to “bend forward” but the process starts with throwing me out of the comfort of my ‘normal’ body mechanics. When I come back to “normal’, after my yoga practice, I don’t quite return to my starting place. Almost but not exactly where I was in the beginning. Over time, if I maintain this consistent practice, my ‘normal’ gently shifts to another place.
In this respect, Yoga is inherently unsettling. It works by prying us out of our habitual pathways – mental as well as physical – and starts teaching us about different possibilities, other ways of doing things, other ways of looking at things, other ways of thinking about things. I don’t think we notice is so much from session to session but
So what does this have to do with cinnamon knots — white flour, white sugar, brown sugar, butter, butter and a side of butter, cream cheese and butter, more sugar ? I know I’m dealing with the same sense of ‘unsettled’ as I did during training. There are three of us ‘fledglings’ getting ready to announce our presence as YOGA TEACHERS in Fredericton. New classes, new location, new times, and new format – it’s all new to us. For each of us, it represents a considerable commitment in time, money, responsibility and ‘social esteem’. Surely I’m not the only one wondering, “What if nobody comes? What if nobody signs up for my class? What if someone hates how I teach? What if?” By custom and tradition, all of these ‘what if’ tales have horrible endings.
So the cinnamon twists are an attempt at self-medication. It’s comfort food. It has the essence of a simpler time. It reminds me of a mythological time when someone else was responsible for my life and I could leave the decisions about everything to someone else. In short, I currently find myself in another one of Life’s “growth stages”, and they’re always mildly disconcerting. They pull me out of my ‘tried and true.” Pass the sugar bowl, will you?
So there’s my state of being today – slightly daunted by the promises of new adventures, armed with fresh cinnamon twists and in the company of my crew.
Thanks for reading and Namaste,