On Yoga and Oatmeal

I’m going to be straight with you (again), but this time about something a little more serious than food (I know; how dare I do that!).

The thing is, I haven’t felt like myself for the past month or so. I’ve been a big ball of anxiety and nerves and stress. I feel like I haven’t properly b r e a t h e d in weeks and weeks. I know I haven’t been eating as well as I should, and I also haven’t found – or made – time to exercise. So this stress has taken its toll physically as well as mentally – I’m getting sharp, piercing pains in one tiny spot of my back when I bend over; my neck crackles (crackles!!) when I move it, and I feel tired fairly often. It’s no good.

So this morning I got up and put a pot of oatmeal on the stove, mixed with a diced apple and lots of yummy spices. Then I transferred it to the oven to make my first-ever baked oatmeal. And while it was baking, filling my apartment with warm, homey smells, I dug out my yoga mat, the yoga mat I purchased with a CSN store gift certificate a few months back but have only used once since then.

I rolled out my mat on the floor in front of the sliding glass doors in my living room. And then I dug deep into the dusty corners of my overtaxed brainbox and tried to remember how my yoga teacher led us through our Ashtanga practice during spring term of my senior year at Carleton, when I met yoga and fell in love only to grow apart after graduating.

And so I stretched and I warrior posed and I tried my darndest to rid my mind of all the junk that’s been bummin’ me out lately. I dutifully breathed in and out, deeply, five times during every downward facing dog. With each breath, I tried to let go of something.

Breathe in – looming work deadlines! – breathe out – goodbye, looming work deadlines!

Breathe in – blog blog blog blog blog! – breathe out – goodbye, constant need to write blog posts in my head!

Breathe in – so many Christmas presents to knit, so little time! – breathe out – goodbye, knitting frenzy!

Breathe in – why is the “Maint Needed” light on in in my car?! – breathe out – goodbye, worry that could be alleviated if I’d just call the car shop!

Breathe in – crap, I really should start on all those foods I wanted to make for MoFo! – breathe out – goodbye, stupid desire to overachieve!

And I tried. I really tried. I held my poses and I tried to focus on my breathing, but I couldn’t let go; my mind kept working working working thinking thinking writing writing writing. At one point, I even yelled aloud: “Shut up, Kelly!” Good thing my roommate’s not here at the moment. But it wasn’t until I was in the middle of one of my favorite simple seated poses* that I gained a brief, blissful, fleeting moment of relief. For one moment, the thoughts in my head faded. I heard nothing but footsteps from the people upstairs and a car driving by outside. And it was wonderful.

All too quickly, though, my thoughts came flooding back, reminding me about all the crafts I want to do and the foods I want to make. But it’s okay. My downward-facing dog might’ve been more like a downward facing humpbacked whale, and my joints might’ve creaked as if I were a 95-year-old lady instead of a 23-year-old youngling, but it was wonderful. And it taught me a lesson I refuse to forget: I cannot ignore myself. No matter how stressful things get, I need to make time to b r e a t h e, to center myself and to let go of all the stress, even if only for a minute. Fifty years from now, will I care what I posted about during day 20 of Vegan MoFo? Probably not. But I will care about how I felt during that time in my life; if I was happy and relaxed or constantly anxious and worry-filled. So I resolve to incorporate more yoga into my life, to make time to work out, and to b r e a t h e.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got  to eat breakfast, because that baked oatmeal won’t eat itself. And then I’ve got to take a short trip into work, because those revisions won’t make themselves.

Up next on my to-do list...

However, I promise to take a few deep breaths in the middle of it all.

How do you calm yourself down when things get crazy?

* I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s number 25 here.