Om my gosh: how yoga might just save me…

I didn’t intend to start the day with a yoga class.  It wasn’t even on my radar.  My plan was to spend enough time on the elliptical machine to break out a sweat and burn enough calories to offset my quota of PopTarts I’d eaten for breakfast.  But walking down the hallway, I ran in to a mother from the kids’ school who roped me in to going to a yoga class with her.  And this yoga class?  It might just be my salvation.  The answer to everything that I’m struggling with right now.  The alternative to Zoloft.

Discounting the yoga that I’d done with P90X (I mean, I love Tony Horton as much as the next guy, but he’s not necessarily B.K.S. Iyengar), the last time I’d taken an organized yoga class was the low-energy prenatal yoga classes I’d taken when pregnant with Miss P.  Before that, it was the slightly-crazy class I attended with a friend in NYC that was so filled with yoga fanatics that I felt insecure and inadequate that I couldn’t even look the teacher in the eye.  And even WAY before that, the last time I’d done yoga regularly was over a decade ago.

So, yeah, it’d been a while.

I was nervous, intimidated, and wrought with all those First Encounter Jitters:  Where do I put my shoes? How should I lay out my mat?  Do I need all that gear?  Am I supposed to be stretching before we begin, or can I just sit here and chat with my friend?  And, God forbid, what if I queef?

We started out with some stretching and I quickly realized I wasn’t dressed for yoga.  I had on a baggy camisole and baggy sweats, and when the room began to get toasty, I was a floppy mess.  Still, the stretching…my God, THE STRETCHING.  My body was eternally grateful for all of those twists and bends, simultaneously cursing me for not stretching more regularly.

Then we started to move through asanas, did some balance poses, some abdominal strengthening, and before I knew it, the yoga class was over.  And, man, did I feel great.  For the first time since we’ve moved here, I felt connected back to my body.  The teacher (also a mom, who had told us she was up most of the night with a croupy kid) kept instilling this mantra (for us? or for her?):  This is for YOU, this is YOUR time.  All that other crap that’s coming in to your head? Drop it.

And I did.

All that breathing, stretching, strengthening, moving, it felt glorious.  Like the missing link.  In that yoga class, I realized how much I miss dancing.  Moving my body in a three-dimensional way.  Feeling grounded.  Feeling home.

And that euphoria?  It lasted for the rest of the day.  What a bonus, right?  I found myself getting less wigged out over every little thing my kids did that might otherwise annoy me.  I didn’t have my usual late-afternoon headache.  And I actually felt good about myself.  How did I forget about yoga?  I knew it was out there, that there were classes at the gym.  Why didn’t I do this sooner?  I’ll tell you why…my stupid mind fed me all sorts of excuses, filled me with fear of the unknown, of what might happen, or of how ridiculous I might look.  I’m so grateful for the mom that talked me in to going with her.  Sometimes all we need is a little push in the right direction.

This yoga class might just be the answer to the loss I feel about not having a dance career anymore.  I knew, deep down inside, that I’d been mourning that aspect of my life, but I don’t think I’ve come to terms with and accepted it just yet.  Yoga might be the gentle hand that leads me over to the other side of my career transition.

As they say at the end of a yoga class, namaste.  Namaste indeed.

Back to basics…

Expansion and positive change on the outer level is much more likely to come into your life if you can enjoy what you are doing already, instead of waiting for some change so that you can start enjoying what you do. 
–Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
I know I started in on this whole Mid-Career Crisis thing a while back, and then I sort of dropped it like a hot potato.  It never really went away.  But my attitude towards what I’m currently doing is shifting.  Like Mr. Tolle has painfully pointed out to me again and again, I love being miserable and will seek out those situations that can feed that need to pity myself.  What good does that do?  To me?  To those around me?  
So, my dancing.  Is it better?  Probably not.  Especially since I’ve apparently swallowed a small animal with the pounds I’ve been quickly packing away.  (This is where I’d ask you to slap me out of the negativity.  A good hard smack.)  Am I getting more recognition?  Truth be told, I am probably getting just as much, but I’m just listening more.  And comparing less.  My success or failure really shouldn’t depend on what is said to me or to others, and the more I can repeat this mantra under my breath during class and rehearsal, the better off I am. 
What I AM trying to do is get back to the basics.  The pure and simple enjoyment of feeling my body move through space.  The power that comes with feeling strong, the rush of energy that comes from getting my heart rate up and breaking a sweat.   The humor in a shaky leg as it creeps up to an extension.   The breath that comes from those around me as they navigate the space with me.  
Don’t get me wrong.  I still pine for something else.  But maybe something as startling as a sudden career change is the wrong thing right now.  I think I need to take it slow.  Baby steps à la Bill Murray.  Singing with my kids this afternoon, albeit to the Tangled soundtrack, made me long for a voice lesson.  On the docket for today:  sniff out a voice teacher and/or acting classes.  Low commitment stuff for the time being, but something.  
And while I’m at it, can I look around for a cooking class?  Something that lets me bring home a few leftovers?  Who’s with me?

Down in it…

Today was a rough day…well, maybe not the whole day, but the first half was utter crap.  I woke up feeling exhausted and hit with the cold I’ve been trying to escape from just about everyone in my family and K’s company.  And that funky mood followed me around all morning and most of the afternoon.  Rehearsal only brought out the worst in me.  Decisions were made that I passively was a part of, and now that I didn’t make my concerns known, I’m stuck in a hard place.  It’s my own fault, really, for not stepping up and vocalizing more adamantly what I wanted and didn’t want.  Once I fell in to that tar pit of gloom, it was impossible to pull myself out of it.  And every thing that occurred for the rest of the day just exacerbated my foul mood. 

Thankfully, my friend M knows what kind of work I’ve been doing on myself, and gave me a verbal slap in the face.  M is a tell-it-like-it-is kind of gal, and I love that about her.  She reminded me that my ego loves misery and feeds off of it; that the things I’m telling myself are lies and fodder for negative thinking.  It was the exact thing I needed to hear at that moment and it shook me out of my funk so that I was able to get on with my day.  In the end, I had a great afternoon with the kids and everything went so smoothly that I almost didn’t want the kids to go to bed.  Wait, did I just say that?  I did say almost.

What do YOU do to pull yourself out of a bad day and turn it around?


The other day in rehearsal we were watching video of the last concert to try to recreate timing for a new dancer.  And let me say, I DETEST watching myself on video.  It never looks like it feels.  But this time, I thought it might be different.  I think I’m dancing better, stronger, fuller than I ever have. 

Yet, video didn’t cease to let me feel discouraged.  Here I was, thinking that I’m jumping higher, feeling length through my legs, moving with the strength of my pelvis, feeling voluminous in gestures.  But nothing looked like I imagined.  There are certain dancers that look just as great on video as they do in person, but I am not one of them (assuming that I look great live, ha!).  Listen, I worked for many years archiving dance film and video.  I know the pitfalls of the media: video makes things flat, movement dynamics don’t read like they do live, and performance energy is something that can’t be captured as well.  But damn.  It was a blow to my self-esteem.  I have to admit, I came home and gorged.  Adding some bloat to the weight I’ve gained back since the show.   Must.  Get.  Back.  On.  Track.

No pain, hopefully no gain…

Let me start this with a disclaimer: K is old school and I love that about her. She’s tough, she expects hard work, and she’s chock full of amazing information about how the body works and how dancers should embody movement. She’s not afraid to tell it like it is. Coming from a more collaborative environment where everyone shared equal weight, created an ensemble hierarchy and gave criticism with sugar on top, working with K has had its challenges.

Mostly, it’s my issue to deal with, I know this.  Yet I find myself getting pouty and hurt like a small child from time to time.  I’m not sure if it’s me, or just the atmosphere that is created.  K’s work is designed for the kind of company I’ve been terrified of. Certain people get solos, others do not.  Some are cast in everything and featured like a blockbuster movie, some only in a few large group pieces.  This is not how I’m used to operating.  You would think that after four years, I’d get used to it.  But I haven’t.  I still feel sensitive to things.  Like the days when she seems to be dishing out glowing compliments to other dancers, but is still pushing me to “get stronger.”  And I have been working my ASS off to get there.  I completed a round of p90x, in the hopes that my new-found strength would either garner praise or at least make the remarks of my strength issues go away for a while.  But it didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, K’s work is wicked tough.  It’s demanding, technically hard and  requires a heckofa lot of endurance and stamina.  And I love that.  It pushes me to work in a way that feels challenging, but proud of.  But is all of that hard work paying off?  Perhaps she’s just more conscious of my age then I am.  She’s not giving out any breaks just because I have birthed two kids and have the pelvis to prove it.  I DO know that I bring it at every rehearsal.  I don’t think I’ve ever marked anything unless it was absolutely necessary.  So why I’m still feeling like a disappointment, I’m not sure.

More importantly, why am I letting someone’s opinion of me and my dancing effect me so much?  Is that the nature of the artist, the need for approval?  Shouldn’t I be over that by this point in my career? As a dancer, it’s so psychological – sure it’s my dancing, but it’s also my body, my brain.  Somehow the hit is harder than if someone were to criticize my knitting, grammar, or even parenting on some level.  It’s how I look, how I move, and how I process things.  What a triple whammy!  No wonder so many ballet dancers are anorexic.  I have never danced in an environment like this, and I can see how it would be easy to get sucked in to that mindset.

In the end, I have to constantly remind myself that I’m doing this for ME, and if K likes it, than that is a bonus.  After having Mr. B, I came back to dancing a little more free, knowing that there were bigger things to focus on.  I seem to have lost that along the way.  And I need to stop comparing myself and what is or is not said to me with others.  If I’ve remembered one thing from all of my positivity crap, it is that I should not measure my success by others success or failure.  Right?  Right?

But just to show you want I’m talking about, let me give you this:  We’re trying on costumes that we wore in the last show, and the costumer tells some of us that she was told by K that someone had gained weight, but she didn’t know who, and that was why we were trying on costumes.  Shit.  Really?  So the six of us in the room start questioning whether it is one of us.  One dancer has come back from having her second baby and is still nursing (and looks FABULOUS) by the way.  The other two are guys who have clearly lost some weight, and then there’s me.  So I spent the rest of rehearsal thinking “wow, does she think I have gained weight?”  Then I reminded myself to breathe and enjoy…