Usually I wake a few times at night, blankets askew, irritated. I’ve either had a really troubling nightmare or heard some bump in the night; likely both. So I lay there, exhausted, frustrated, needing and wanting sleep that doesn’t come. Eventually the alarm goes off and I rise, grudging. Some time later I’ll unroll my mat to practice. Gone are the days of Ashtanga-based sequences and handstands. Usually I roll around and whine–I’m tired, I hurt, and I can’t seem to meaningfully address it. No sooner have I stretched and mobilized the tension from one part of my body but I find more elsewhere. If I attempt to properly execute savasana I’ll cry, get too agitated to continue–or lay there, heart pounding, jaw tight; stuck.
That’s how mornings have mostly been for a couple of years now.
This morning I blink my eyes open lazily and lie still, my head against Kevin’s* shoulder. I breathe in the scent of his skin and feel my lips forming a smile. Peaceful and relaxed, I breathe deeply and turn to kiss his face a few times before rolling out of bed.
I run out the front door down urban streets, beaming. Every time I glance at my Garmin my pace is under 9:30 per mile, which is a lot closer to normal than it has been. I’m turning over easily, sailing along beneath the mist from gray-green skies that swirl ominously. Hurricane Florence is missing us but whipping leaves and branches from the trees and sending torrents down sporadically. As it begins to pour I spread my arms wide and feel the many small droplets pelting my face, arms and shoulders. I’m running next to a heavily trafficked road. For now, I am not startling as cars approach. I feel warm and light in my chest and solar plexus, and I guess this is the somatic experience of happiness I’ve been puzzling over with my therapist, Lisa. I recall session after session where she’s asked me after recounting a happy memory–“How does that feel in your body?” to which I confess with confusion and dismay that I don’t know. I can remember my emotions and the sensations of connecting with what’s around me, but this is what’s been missing. The happiness inside myself is unmistakable on a morning I wake up next to the sweet, gentle man who flew back home ahead of a hurricane to be with me.
Back at his place, he kindly dismisses my disclaimer that I am disgusting soaked in sweat and rainwater and holds me close, happy to see me. As he continues to work at the kitchen table, I go upstairs to shower and do my morning practice–“roll around on the floor”, I tell him.
I start on my back, bringing one knee at a time toward my chest. I mobilize my ankles and hips. They are full of sensation–I unwind tension patiently and then throw in some physical therapy exercises. There is no whining. I’m feeling newly rekindled ease. My breathing is deep and slow, my face relaxed. Light streams in the giant windows and I hear the faint tapping of my boyfriend’s fingers on the keyboard downstairs as I rise.
I stand at the top of my mat and chant the Ashtanga invocation under my breath. Before I know it, I am jumping back to chaturanga–which I’ve not bothered with except to demonstrate for students in a long time. These familiar movements feel delicious and languid. After surya namaskara I add standing work. I transition through Vira 3 just for the hell of it; I am playing merrily. After a while I satisfy my desire for movement and settle on my back for supine twists and supta badhakonasana. My heartbeat is moderate, and in that space I feel warmth and expansiveness.
I smile, roll my eyes, and laugh silently; I am a teacher who doesn’t say asinine, poetic things. “Blossom your heart open” is exactly the kind of overly florid yoga-speak that never passes my lips, and yet that’s occurred to me as precisely what I’m feeling. Lying here in the safety of Kevin’s* bedroom I am poignantly aware of my body yielding, limbs falling easily away from my torso. The physical sensations around my heart do indeed feel as I imagine a white magnolia bud might while unfurling beneath the southern sunshine.
I wonder–would I stay relaxed if I tried to lay here in savasana? Tentatively, I extend my legs. My quads remain placid, so I try putting my arms out at my sides. The backs of my hands rest softly on the plushy carpet next to my mat. I allow my eyes to close. Comfortable as I’ve ever been, I stay and allow this new bliss to wash over me.
*name has been changed