November 5, 2005

Why Yoga Is Such a Big Deal

Please understand that I'm not whining. It could be a lot worse. On
the other hand, while it takes a certain amount of what I think of as
selfishness to accomplish anything for myself at all, I figure it's
good for the family if I stay in some sort of shape (when Mama's not
happy, ain't nobody happy!). And, some days I am lucky to just
accomplish my 15 minutes of stretching. Here, for your amusement, is

The following is a partial transcript of a typical yoga session Chez

[Starting positions: Emily is in her Pack-N-Play bassinet, looking at a
crib mirror. Laura is on the floor next to me, and I am on my exercise
mat. We each have an old leather belt we use for stretching instead of
pricey yoga straps. The cats are on the bed, which is right next to

Y [that's the yoga guy on the vid; being an adult male, to Laura he is
a Daddy; since it's filmed in Hawai'i, he is "Daddy Beach"] : Guided
relaxation. Lie on your back.
[Fiona Cat takes this as an invitation to jump onto my solar plexus and
snuggle. Since she only weighs ten pounds and it'll be a while before
I have to move much, I let her stay. She's warm. She purrs.]

Y: Turn your shoulder blades under. Don't pinch them together; keep
them broad and open. Close your eyes.
[I close my eyes, but immediately Laura wanders off, so I open them
again. She goes to the bassinet and steals the crunchy book Emily was
just starting to get interested in, having tired of the crib mirror. I
get up, disturbing Fiona, retrieve the crunchy book and put it where
Emily can see it but Laura can't reach it. Laura is not pleased, and
being a toddler, doesn't disguise the fact.]

Y: Place your hands on your thighs. With your touch, relax your legs
[I've laid back down, now, and am following directions. Fiona comes
back. Laura comes back. Dudley comes and bonks us both--Laura and
me--on the head, in turns. I pet him a little, Laura pets him a
little. Fiona bats at him if he looks like he's thinking of joining

Y: Now, take one hand and place it on your belly. Take the other, and
put it on your solar plexus.
[There's a cat there, so I pet her with the extra hand instead. It's
all good....until Emily starts her "I'm bored and lonely" preliminary
fuss. I go and adjust her toys, smile and coo, and come back to the

...Peace reigns for perhaps a minute....

Y: From here, place the heels of your hands over your eyes. Feel your
eyes relax backward.
[Feel the 17-pound cat bonk you vigorously on the head. Feel the
flailing heels of the toddler come whooshing perilously close to your
face. But by all means keep your eyes closed. And relax. Uh huh.]

[Emily's warning sirens have now passed boredom and escalated to
preliminary hunger warnings. Of course, she wouldn't eat ten minutes
ago. We all pause for nursing. Laura is bored: "Mommy do YOGA!
Mommy do YOGA! Daddy BEACH!" she implores. On a good day, she runs
off to terrorize the cats or play peekaboo in the mirror in my closet.
On a bad day, she does things like try to take the grown-up books out
of their bookcases, and ends up quarantined with us in the nursery
until we can finish nursing. Emily finishes her thing, gets up a burp
or two, and goes back to the bassinet.]

Y: AM stretch. This gentle yoga series will help you begin each day
with openness and peace.
[Obviously, he never does yoga with children. Open, yeah, ya gotta be.
But peace???]

Y: Lie on your back, in simple relaxation pose. Take the time to
observe the alignment of your body, and place it in perfect symmetry.
[Here's Fiona, back on her perch. Dudley comes and lays near my face,
which is friendly but tickles a bit. Merlin chooses this moment to
jump down and ask what on earth I'm doing on the ground, in his best
Siamese bark. So much for relaxation...]

Y: Arms out to the sides. Exhale; bring the arms together; inhale,
stretching them over your head.
[Pause to remove one of Fiona's hind feet from my windpipe. *Now* I
can inhale.]

Y: Exhale. Release the arms. Right knee into the chest.
[Fiona is disgusted, and stalks off. She does not go gently into that
good night, either. I check for blood. I seem to be o.k.--just some
red marks that hurt a little--so, back to the saltmines.]

[Meanwhile, Emily is now warning that she's tired. I hit "pause", take
the belt away from Laura--who is chewing thoughtfully on the
buckle--and get Emily. Just a moment's rocking gets her to sleep on a
good day, though it takes a bit longer to ease her down onto the bed.
And a little longer still when Laura's just had to relinquish a chew
toy that really isn't. Again, on a good day she'll be content there
even if she's not asleep. Other days...well, sometimes it takes us an
hour and a half to get through fifteen minutes of stretching.]

Y: Take your right knee, and draw it across the body to your left.
[No problem. Of course, there's a toddler there to my left, thinking
of doing the same stretching thing, and pushing me out of her way. I
win, with no harm to either party. Then I take the belt away again,
and give her the one with the leather buckle instead of metal.]

[Emily has woken up again, even though she was out cold when I laid her
down. She is currently not fussing, just gurgling a little bit, so we
go on.]

Y: Draw both knees up, and drop them open to Reclined Cobbler's pose.
Place your hands on your thighs, and press them down as your spine
[aaaah--what a great stretch. Quick! Move Laura so she doesn't thwack
me on the pelvic bone with her head as she lays down (it's happened
before. Ouch.) O.K., back to the stretch...]

Y: Now raise your knees into both hands and draw your knees towards
your chest.
[I love this stretch; it really helps my lower back (I can always hear
and feel satisfying popping). It also, however, leaves one
extraordinarily *vulnerable* to passing pets and children. Not wanting
to scare Dennis, I'll leave it to your imagination. ;-) ]


And so it goes...As I say, I'm happy to be able to manage it on most
days, and it does help me survive schlepping the kiddos. Having
written just a few minutes of it down, now I know why I'm often not
motivated to get much else done; it's hard work just staying with the

A final note: the stretches end with a few minutes of meditation, where
one is instructed to focus on your breathing. Laura knows the drill so
well now--and knows that Mommy doesn't usually get to meditate, having
been lucky to finish stretching--that she says, "Bye-bye, Daddy Beach"
and turns off the television once Mr. Y moves on to that part. Even on
days when I *could* do the meditating. Oh, well....So long, Daddy

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