31 Days, 31 People
Day 23: KAREN L.
Way back when I stopped running and started doing yoga, I tried pretty much every style of yoga I could try. Except the heated room yoga, because when you’re pregnant you’re already like a little heated room walking around. I tried everything, though. Some were too fast for me, I swear I was not engineered to move quickly. Some were a little too chanty for me, or wanted us to make uncomfortably weird faces. My friend Rob got me to try his favorite instructor’s class. It was Anusara style yoga where the moves were a bit slower with emphasis on longer holds and alignment. Karen played rock-n-roll music during class instead of the regular, more ‘earthy’ sorts of stuff you’d hear in most classes. Immediately I knew I’d found my place in this yoga world.
While pregnant I learned to do my first backbends and kick up to the wall in my very first handstands. Even after Sophia was born, I was back in the studio 12 days later. Karen and I became quite good friends over the years. And I loved handstands.
After Zia was born four years later, I had a lot of crazy stuff happening in life, yoga fell by the wayside. It’d be a couple years before I’d make it back into the studio. When I did, I’d only go for a few weeks then fall back off into demands of work and single-momming. The studio thing had become really difficult for me to make work. Early in 2014 I called Karen and asked for help. And she was there, immediately. For the next six months, she’d come to my house twice a week and work me harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. Karen is tough and strong and she kicked my butt.
I’ve told this story a couple times at a few conferences, but it was such an insightful moment for me, I’ve got to share it here. After a few sessions of Karen coming to my house, it was time for handstands. I’d done thousands of handstands in my life, but none for the past couple years. Still, I figured it would still be in my system enough to kick up to a wall and hold a handstand for a few seconds. Nope. Wasn’t happening. We tried again the next session, and again the session after that. Still no luck.
On the fourth or fifth session of inability to kick up to the wall in a handstand, Karen says to me, “One breath at a time. You’re thinking too much about it.” That was exactly what I needed to hear. I WAS thinking about it too much. I didn’t kick up immediately after she said that, I was too exhausted from trying. Karen’s advice to just focus on the breath, and quit overthinking it sunk in. I pondered it for the days between our sessions. I thought about how perfectly it applied to everything in life at a much deeper level than just handstands. It applied to every challenge we have in life. Then, on our very next session, I kicked up into a handstand on my first attempt, as if all those failed attempts had never happened. Like Ray Bradbury said in Zen in the Art of Writing, “Work. Relax. Don’t Think.”
“One breath at a time” is a key that Karen gave to me that has unlocked a lot of mental doors since she said it. I’m so grateful for that.
There are always obstacles that we’re going to run into. Life is like that. It’s surprising how much practice it takes to think less about stuff. I find the more I let go, and keep moving, the more things fall into place. Turns out, my mind is my biggest obstacle.
Thank you Karen for your enduring friendship and for pushing me further than I think I can go.
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