Well friends, I come to you one year older, perhaps a little wiser, and full of much more cheesecake than I did last Friday. (I may or may not be eating a piece of cheesecake at this very moment, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination.)
So as I approach this new year of my life, one step closer to thirty, one step closer to people taking me seriously when I tell them I teach yoga for a living, and with a slightly different perspective. Most of you know, the past month or so of my life has been absolute shit. I’ve spent a fair amount of time wallowing in it, too, telling myself that it’s okay to feel feelings AND THESE ARE MY FEELINGS.
Last Friday was a dark day. I wrote to you that I was looking for magic, and I didn’t find any that day, but the next morning I woke up early to practice on my own. It was hard, and although I gave myself time to rest I pushed past the discomfort, I forced myself to stay present and breathe even when I really wanted to be done in Warrior II. This is not always easy to do on your own, but I did it – and life has slowly started to turn back around.
Not that anything, really, is much different. My stepson is here now and my husband did clean the crap out of our house to prepare for his arrival, so that has certainly helped my mood. But truthfully, honestly – my dog is still dead, our bathroom is still not fully functioning, I still feel insecure and unsteady about some personal projects of mine.
But this is what happened. I stayed with it. I didn’t let myself lay down and take it anymore – I stayed. I stayed in Warrior II, I held postures longer than I wanted, I stayed and I breathed and I cried and I got through it. That doesn’t mean I’m not still sad that Tanner is gone, or grieving other parts of my successes or failures. But it means I am uncomfortable, but I’m still here.
When I first started taking all of this yoga shit seriously I was in deep. Like, I was all about the chakras and energetics of yoga and all that woo-woo shit that makes people who don’t do yoga roll their eyes. My recent projects are more down-to-earth, more accessible, and we talk about the woo-woo without delving too much into it – because I’m trying to get newbies into yoga, and not have them running from it.
But this, too, has been weighing me down. Practicality is nice and all, but a little magic never hurt anyone. This is why I fell in love with yoga – the magic. I fell in love with yoga because it makes me feel pretty – not so I could I have correct alignment and have the most badass level hips ever.
So recently I’ve been finding my own woo-woo and adding back in mudras. Mudras are hand yoga. Because why let all the yoga be left to your body? (Yes, I read this and laugh. From a practical perspective “hand yoga” seems asinine. Stay with me.)
Anyway, one of the things about yoga is being mindful in all parts of your body – including your hands. Mudras can help you do that by giving your hands something to do. Starfish hands and keeping fingers wide and energetic, fingers touching making one long line of energy, or what people commonly think of the hands doing in yoga in meditation – jnana mudra – or the first finger and thumb touching, with fingers facing up. (With fingers facing downward, this is called chin mudra.)
Recently I’ve been practicing this mudra in my own yoga postures – because, simply, it makes me feel pretty. The fingers placed in this form make a circle, unending, like how Tanner and I will be forever intertwined if not always together in this physical form. Like how cyclical the breath is – constantly in and out, like the beat of the heart – ba-dum. These things that happen constantly, continuously – seasons, generations, patterns of activity.
In the yoga world, the thumbs represent human consciousness, the three extended fingers represent the three gunas – traits that keep everything going (tamas – lethargy, rajas – activity, sattva – balance and harmony), and the circle of the index and thumb represents the unification of the individual soul (atman) with the world soul (brahman).
Whether or not you believe in this is irrelevant – there are days I do and days I roll my eyes. But the one thing I know is this: when I place my hands in this position, when I practice my postures keeping this mudra – it feels more magical. It feels like I have something to believe in, even if it’s hokey, even if it might be metaphysical bullshit – I don’t care.
And it makes me feel pretty.
Try it out, the next time you practice. See what you think for yourself.