Summer flies when you’re a teacher Most people think we have 3 months off, but we really only have two. I know. Cry me a river, right? But you really do want us to have two months away from your children. Those 2 months are why we can welcome your kids back to school in the fall with genuine excitement and pour every last ounce of energy and creativity that we rebuilt over the summer into teaching them for another 10 months. By June, we are exhausted and running on the fumes of a distant memory when we passionately decided to change the world one student at a time.
Summer is also time for taking care of things that we let slide during the school year. Things like healthy eating, visiting family, decluttering cupboards, reading books above a fifth grade reading level, lunching with friends, and annual mammograms.
Summer is a great time for setting personal goals. Teachers are required to set goals. We have professional goals that we discuss with our principals, class goals that set tone and expectations, learning goals for each unit, individual student goals that can be educational, behavioral, or social. We are so driven by goals that when I have a few weeks without a goal I feel a little rudderless. I’m really not sure if I could function for two entire months without a goal of some sort.
One of my summer goals is to get back to my yoga practice. I have never been a yogi. When I taught fitness classes, I made sure to attend a yoga class or whip out a Baron Baptiste Yoga in a Box once a week. With all of my spinning, running, BodyPump, and sculpting classes I needed yoga to keep any kind of flexibility. But when I moved to New York, yoga was the first things to drop off my fitness plate. Then lifting weights soon followed. Now I’m lucky if I run or spin 3-4 days each week.
So enter this character in the Summer of 2016. Not the character pictured above. Enter a weak-armed, 40-something woman with the memory of yoga being a nice challenge that was pretty great for you. I needed to find a yoga studio.
Each summer we spend about a month out of the city. It’s refreshing to temporarily re-enter suburban life and remind ourselves that there is normalcy in rest of the country. Driving to the grocery store instead of walking seems a luxury. Buying a full cart of groceries, not limiting my purchases to whatever will fit in my backpack and two grocery bags, one for each hand. Wheeling that cart to the car, or better yet, having a clerk wheel it out for me. Then driving the groceries to the house where I unload directly into the kitchen which is 10 steps from the front door. Suburban normalcy.
I expected to have to drive to a yoga studio in the burbs, but to my surprise, there is a Power Yoga Studio literally at the end of the street where we’re staying. So in quintessential NYC form, I strapped on my yoga bag and walked a block to this studio.
They have a new student special consisting of 10 consecutive days for $20. It doesn’t take a Common Core math teacher to figure out that this is an incredible deal. Obviously the deal is sweeter if I go all 10 days. Two dollars per class? You can’t find that in NYC.
Motivated by a good deal, my goal began to clarify. Could I go to power yoga for 10 days in a row? Power yoga translates to hard and fast, and I’m coming from a base of zero. And it’s a 75 minute class in a 90 degree studio. That doesn’t sound too terribly bad, especially when it’s about 95 degrees outside. That’s what I told myself anyway. But I sweat while sitting on my mat waiting for class to start.
Don’t forget that the character in this story is a weak-armed, 40-something woman with the memory of yoga being a nice challenge that was pretty great for you.
Well, I started the deal and tentatively set my 10-day goal.
Day 1 was a wake up call. I know that for some reason, whenever I get back into yoga after a period of yogalessness, I have to be careful how much time I spend upside down. A simple downward-facing dog will cause my head to pound so hard that blood vessels burst in my face. I learned this the hard way, by pushing through the discomfort. Pushing through and not listening to your body is very non-yogalike. So I warned the instructor that I’d need to come out of most inversions early. I flowed. I bent. I twisted. I held. I tried not to think about the 20-somethings with cute little butts who made it look so easy. I flowed some more. I wobbled. I warriored. I warriored so many times I wondered if she forgot the rest of the sequence. My face felt like it was going to explode each time I went down, I took breaks, and I made it through. I was so glad that I thought to bring my yoga towel left over from that Groupon package that one month I tried Bikrim. Beads of sweat dotted every inch of my flesh from the start. I left drenched but with my complexion in tact, and I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to move the next morning.
Day 2 hurt to get out of bed, as expected. But I went. And it was so hard! I had no idea one’s arms could shake like that.
And this text pretty much sums up my intention not to continue with my goal.
Specifically the “Bahahahahaha!”
But I went back on Day 3 for Power Yoga Hour. This meant that the class was literally an hour, a 60 minute class instead of the 75 that I had been doing. Choosing this class was the only way I could convince myself that I might be able to make it through the third day in a row. It would be shorter.
There are no clocks in a yoga studio. Why aren’t there clocks in a yoga studio??? For teachers whose days are run by the clock with every minute accounted for, time is a huge part of the day. We are constantly looking and checking the clock. Are we on schedule, behind schedule, miraculously ahead of schedule? Do I need to modify the lesson to get to Gym on time? Are they glazing over because they’ve been in their seats too long? How long have Suzie and Sally been in the bathroom? Even outside of school I’m addicted to the clock. I just need to know what time it is. I do have an uncanny ability to guess within minutes the time at any given moment. But then again it could just be that I checked 5 minutes ago.
There are no clocks in this yoga studio, but because of my ability to feel the minutes tick by I knew that this class was soon coming to an end. It just had to be almost over. I was drenched. I was spent. But it kept going. And I kept going. I reached the point where I wondered if the next chaturanga dandasana would be interrupted by a face plant on my mat, because I had no strength left to prevent it. Each vinyasa became a prayer, please don’t let me hit my face, please don’t let me hit my face. The first thing I did after class ended, after I dragged my limp body out of the studio to gather my belongings, was to check the clock. 75 minutes! That hour was not an hour at all! I felt tricked.
Something started to happen the afternoon of Day 3. I had an itch on my upper arm and felt something. Not a bug or a loose hair. It was a bump, the beginning of a muscle where my atrophied tricep used to be. I could actually feel my tricep again! Now mind you it was sore to the touch, but it was there! And walking up stairs I had this feeling like a cute yoga butt was in the making.
Day 4. I dreaded this class more than Day 2 and 3 put together, because I felt soreness with every step as I walked to class. Climbing the stairs I felt fatigued and out of breath. But I was also excited. I was getting stronger, and those extra suggestions like “and now you can try firefly” or “pop up into a headstand” or “flip your dog” didn’t cause my eyes to roll. They just hung in the air as a maybe. Not today, but maybe at some point.
Yoga is supposed to quiet the mind. But I find that my mind is still as active as ever. Here are a few things that were on my mind on Day 4:
(In plank) I can watch sweat drip off my forehead and onto my mat directly in line with my hands. I wonder if that means my alignment is on. Or off.
It must really hurt to get a foot tatoo.
There’s an ant crawling on that girl’s mat! (Girl effortlessly jumps from rag doll back to plank.) No! Little ant!! Did she smush him? Oh, there he is under the edge of her mat. Close one, buddy.
“Leg parallel to the floor.” I must be close. (I check myself.) Nope, nowhere near.
Please don’t let me hit my face.
How many of these are we going to do?
Please don’t let me hit my face.
No way! I did it!! (Wobble. Fall.)
How can my heart be pounding like this when I’m just standing still?
Do I feel so good after class because I spend an hour sweating out toxins or because this torture is finally over?
Interestingly, I haven’t once thought about what I needed to do that day, school, or things I should be doing but have been putting off. So at least my thoughts were truly in the moment even if I hadn’t reached that quiet space yet.
Then today, Day 5, happened. I had to get up summer early to fit in a class before Saturday’s activities. I woke up without feeling debilitatingly sore. I walked the quiet streets of the suburbs, recognizing that my city neighborhood would already be buzzing with dogs on leashes heading to the park, bead-headed dads stumbling into bodegas for coffee, and women in spandex heading to various fitness studios. Here, I was the only person on the street passed by an occasional car.
Laying on my mat before class, already feeling the sweat beads forming, there was no indication that this class would be any different than the 4 previous days. I scoped out a few people with watches and wondered if I’d be able to sneak peeks to gauge the progress of the class.
And then it started. I moved, I embraced the struggle of holding poses, I flipped my freakin’ dog! I noticed things about my movements that weren’t clear before. My balance was more steady. I realized that if I engaged my legs during chaturanga there was no fear of a face plant. Don’t hear me say that it was easy. It was easy like running 10 miles is easy when you’re training for a marathon. But it no longer felt like running 10 miles when I hadn’t run in a year. And at one point I realized that I wasn’t thinking about anything. I even tried to think of something that might distract me, and I couldn’t. Nothing else really mattered in that moment but the practice. Could yoga be the answer to taming the rat on the exercise wheel in my head?
We shall see!
- Do you practice yoga?
- What kind of yoga do you like?
- How do you bring your mind back to your practice?
- What are your summer goals?