I need to slow down. I know this. I know this, and I ignore this. Most recently, Marina, one of HYS’s wonderful yoga teachers, reminded me of this.
During a 60 minute Bikram class, I was trying desperately hard to get into full toe-stand. Wobbling around, unable to straighten my torso (and yes, I was fixing my gaze on one spot three feet in front of me) and rise up off my heel. One hand up: Wobble to the left. Other hand up: Wobble to the right. Tongue sticking out the corner of my mouth (helps me concentrate); brow furrowed, my entire face screwed up with tension and misplaced “hard work”, she told me to stop; come out and start again; by myself, in front of everyone because I’d punched way above my weight and snagged a spot in the front row.
I’m not upset at Marina for singling me out, far from it. I wish more teachers would call me out on coming into class and steaming through class like Robert Downey Junior on a crack high (is that libellous? Probably).
I realised how fast I talked, walked, thought and probably even slept when I went to visit my parents in their new home in rural (very rural) north (very north) Norfolk (very Norfolk). There’s a quaint (really, I tried and failed to think of a better word) heritage steam train that runs across the coast, and one morning we decided to take the journey. I charged into the ticket office, run by volunteers with a mean age of 72 years old, at least 20 minutes before the train departed. Remember, this is a volunteer-run full-size train set we’re talking about here, not London Bridge at rush hour.
Waiting (and practically climbing the walls) to get my ticket, the charming elderly gentleman at the ticket office took one look at me and said, half to himself, half to me: “Goodness, imagine being that worried about getting a vintage steam train on time”. After handing me my ticket he said, “This is Norfolk. We do things at our own pace.” I promise I did not lift that line from The Archers or a James Herriot book. He honestly said that to me. Suitably chastised, I relaxed a little to enjoy the glacial speed journey along the coast in the vintage train. It was… Calming. Nowhere to be. Nothing to do. No deadlines. No signal; no Wi-Fi; no emails to check, no Instagram to scroll through, no what’s app groups to update.
Remember Road Runner from Looney Tunes? That’s me. Cycling to work? I map the fastest route, time myself against the app’s estimated time and can only sleep easy if I’ve beat the app. Going on a walk with a friend? Make it a power walk! Super charge with a double espresso! On the tube? Utilise the 90 seconds of WiFi at stations to keep up with my correspondence!
Even re-reading the above makes me feel slight motion sickness at the pitching, lilting pace of modern life. My modern life at least. Other people must feel like this, right…? Please say you do. Say it’s not just me.
I’m trying to get better. I’m setting myself tiny, pathetic goals that I hope I can meet and use as momentum to sort of reverse-propel myself into a slower pace: Instead of checking my phone the minute I get to street level after leaving HYS, I make myself wait until I’ve reached the tube station.
Last weekend, I deactivated my alarm on both Saturday and Sunday (this is a huge deal. I have such a fear of wasting time that I worry about getting up later than 8am at the weekend. I realise those of you with children want to shoot me right now, but hear me out: I can’t remember the last time I slept past 7:30am anyway, as I’m so amped up and Ready To Get Things Done At High Speed). I got out of bed on Saturday morning at 8:50am (again, those with young children, please don’t hurt me), and whilst I felt a bit guilty about wasting the morning, it was guilt I could live with surprisingly comfortably.
Anyway, these ramblings do have a point, and the point is about yoga.
Marina singled me out for moving to fast. She told me to stop, rewind and start again. She talked me through each tiny step in a slow, quiet and calm voice. She reminded me to breathe. She reminded me when to inhale and when to exhale and when to move each part of my body with each specific breath.
I kept my eyes on the point I’d chosen to focus on; I kept my jaw and forehead relaxed and used my shoulder blades to pull my torso straight and engage my abs. I breathed slowly and deeply, raising one hand and then the other into prayer. I inhaled and upon exhalation, rose straight up off my heel. I even met my own eyes in the mirror. I didn’t fall; I didn’t even micro-wobble. And it was magnificent. Thank you, Marina, for helping me to see the other side of myself.