Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday: Yoga, Interrupted

For the past eight years, I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with my yoga mat. It’s not the yoga mat’s fault, of course. It’s just a basic blue mat that has served me well over the years – from my first attempt at “downward-facing dog” beneath the awning of our former travel trailer to my umpteenth “warrior” pose in an apartment above Bourbon Street. No, it’s not the mat’s fault that our relationship has been rocky – it’s mine.

Ever since I learned a few basic yoga moves from this teeny how-to book, Collins Gem Yoga (HarperCollins Publishers, 1999), that Dan, the non-yogi, ironically owned, I’ve enjoyed every minute of my yoga routines. Unlike other forms of exercise – especially anything that involves running, jogging, or sprinting – I’ve always felt good while doing yoga... and for a long time afterward. Gently pushing myself to stretch into the poses – even some of the tougher ones – has improved my strength, my flexibility, and my mental health. No other activity provides such equal benefits to my body, mind, and soul.

In the beginning, I relied on blocks, straps, and other accoutrements to complete some of the poses, but nowadays I have no need for such crutches. I simply unfurl my trusty yoga mat, pop in one of several DVDs I’ve procured over the years (or opt for Wii Fit yoga instead), and start bending. I’ve even attempted, on occasion, to use weights with my routine – something that one book dubs Iron Yoga (Rodale, 2005).

The problem is that I have yet to be consistent with my exercise. Sometimes, I’ll do my yoga poses every day for weeks on end, and then suddenly go several months without once unfurling my poor mat. It has nothing to do with the yoga itself – it’s my schedule (or lack of one) that’s usually to blame. When I’m under deadline for a travel guide, for instance, all else seems to fade away – including my beloved yoga. Sadly, I’m not the only writer who allows stress to usurp exercise – Susan Mills (a.k.a., Lazy Writer) lamented this very thing the other day on her blog.

I’m trying to make a concerted effort to create a schedule for myself – one that includes a round of yoga every morning – if for no other reason than that I want to feel good every day – that, and I’m hellbent on maintaining a “raven” pose for longer than two seconds. But these days, I have another blockade to my yoga consistency, and it’s in the form of a small furry creature named Ruby Azazel. I don’t know what her deal is – but ever since she came into our lives ten months ago, she’s been obsessed with my mat. Every time I unroll it, she emerges from her hiding-place-of-the-moment and starts messing with it. She’s even been known to hide underneath it, preventing me from getting started. Even after I manage to coax her off the mat, she’ll return a few minutes later, only to bite my ankles while I’m trying to do my “sun salutation” or an equally meditative pose. Perhaps she doesn’t think yoga’s good for me. Perhaps she’s worried that I’ll one day rival her in flexibility (fat chance!)... All I know is that it seems awfully unfair for a girl who was born with the innate ability to do “downward-facing dog” (not to mention lick her own arse) to prevent me from giving it a go myself. But try telling her that!


Lori said...

Oh, Ruby Azazel is so so sweet. And she has the most beautiful name.

I also tend to feel bad that I am unable to keep any routine going to a longer time. But lately I have realized that strict routine is also not very conducive to creativity. Although I believe I strive on routine, being that I also am a little bit of a creative spirit, I have to make changes, to let my time, my day, take different shape.

Anonymous said...

"All I know is that it seems awfully unfair for a girl who was born with the innate ability to do “downward-facing dog” (not to mention lick her own arse) to prevent me from giving it a go myself. But try telling her that!"

This is so funny... and true! BK (before kids) we had 2 cats, one of which was a Siamese that was my baby. He was the exact same way with certain things. For instance, we couldn't have closed doors. So, really, I was already prepared when we had kids to never pee alone! I love cats!

Great post, thanks for the laugh!
(notice there's not a word here about exercise? *cough, cough* what's exercise?)

Becky said...

There's Ruby!

She DOES look like our kitty (aka "kitty" LOL)! I have the same problem. Add 2 kids and a dog, and it's nearly impossible to lie down on the ground without "company".

I took yoga at a local YMCA many many years ago and LOVED it. I have long ago given up trying to do it on my own, although I still love to do a few poses just to loosen up a bit from time to time.

We got an elliptical machine last winter after a few too many too-cold-to-go-outside days up here. It's been good, but not great. My favorite exercise is still being outdoors doing something... hiking, kayaking, skiing, etc.

Strange Fiction said...

Ah, cute kitty! I've thought about giving yoga a shot. Good for you for actually doing it! I prefer walking or hiking to mat workouts. It is hard to maintain the disipline. I've joined gyms and done the tape workouts over the years but as soon as I figure I'm in shape I'm like whoo hoo, I'm done. Terrible isn't it :)

Laura Martone said...

Morning, Lori! Yeah, she's sweet all right. As I write this, she just knocked some binder clips off my desk. Harumph! As for her name... well, while it's beautiful, it's significant, too. Most of the time, I call her Ruby - 'cause most of the time, she's sweet. But when she isn't, it's Azazel (the name of a demon) all the way!

As for strict routines hurting creativity, I'm sure you're right. Besides, I find that spontaneous exercise is better for meditative reasons, too. Sometimes, you just need to get the heck outta the house and go for a walk. It helps to lower blood pressure and clear the mind!

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Martha! Glad you liked this post - it seemed about time to confess a little, and I know it's true for many pet owners. Ruby doesn't like closed doors either. She whines outside the bathroom door whenever I'm in there. Sometimes, I even leave it open a crack for her... it's hilarious watching the little paw as she pushes her way through.

P.S. I love to exercise - more so than when I was a kid - but I just don't make time for it like I should.

Lazy Writer said...

I've never tried Yoga, but I've heard such good things about it; I'm thinking of giving it a try.

Oh, yeah, my grandma's name was Ruby.

Laura Martone said...

Teehee, Becky. Yup, there's Ruby! See? There IS a resemblance. And I can totally see, with your brood, how difficult yoga would be. :-)

I've never taken a class - I'm self-taught, which probably means I'm doing everything wrong, but, oh, well! I love yoga - but I'm a big fan of outdoorsy exercise, too - hiking and swimming being at the top! Never been kayaking or skiing, though - must remedy that!

Oh, and I just realized I owe you a couple of emails - we have company coming over soon, and my in-laws' dog is missing... so it might be a while. But, real quick, I would love to do something with you - walk, farmers market, whatever - and I applied for that NOLA job. Thanks for the tip!

Stephanie Faris said...

I've never been much for yoga. I don't think I have the patience to sit still long enough!

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Deb! I love my little ferocious tiger... she might mess up my yoga routine, but she calms me in so many other ways. :-)

You should try yoga - it really is wonderful... and easier on the body than most exercises. I like it because I can do the poses anywhere - on a beach, in the woods, in an apartment, even in a tiny hotel room, wherever!

But I'm with you - I like walking and hiking, too! And I know what you mean about getting in shape and then quitting - I've done that a couple times!

Laura Martone said...

Susan - You should give it a try! Yoga's really great for the mind and body. And, only rarely, do I hurt myself. :-)

P.S. I love the name Ruby - I stumble upon it a lot, too. My mom even named her new car Ruby. And she thinks I named my kitty after her car... but she forgets that I've been working on a novel for eight years that features a place called Ruby Hollow! Sigh.

Steph - Well, yoga's not for everyone, that's for sure. But I wish I'd discovered it when I was younger...

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Aww, I love the kitty pic!

I have a similar yoga mat that is in a permanent coil--guess I really should rectify that!

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Eileen! Welcome to my blog.

Yeah, she's a pretty cute kitty... but kind of a trouble-maker. As for the yoga mat, yes, you must rectify that! Yoga is so much fun - and so good for you, too.

Christine H said...

There is a free yoga class at the new college where I'm teaching. That is to say, at my new job, not that it's a new college. I'd really like to take it, but it's at 6:30 on Thursday nights. I don't quite know how to make that work with family stuff.

I, too, am horrible at exercising consistently. But I also have horrible back/neck/shoulder pain from being hunched over my books or the computer so much. So, I really should do it.

Regarding the cat... too funny! Oh how I miss having a cat around the house. It is a known fact that anything you are interested in, they will get in the middle of, in order to distract you. Have you thought about getting her her own mat to play with while you do your exercises?

One advantage to having dogs - if they bug you, you can put them outside.

Christine H said...

P.S. Try this simple test - Put a business card on your living room floor and then let the cat into the room. I bet you the cat will go right to the card and either sit on it or chew it.

Laura Martone said...

Morning, Christine!

As I said somewhere up above... I've never taken an actual yoga class - I just move around too darn much - but one of these days, I'd like to try it. If you can swing it, I'd recommend it - 'cause I'm sure I'm doing all kinds of things wrong, being self-taught and all.

I try hard to sit up straight at the computer, but it isn't always easy, especially without proper ergonomic office equipment. A folding table and a random chair are probably not conducive to good neck/back support - which is all the more reason to do yoga. :-)

As to Ruby... yes, it's in a kitty's nature to get into everything. She's taken to sitting on my desk while I work - 'cause I'm a bad mama who doesn't know how to discipline - and she gets into everything... binder clips, business cards, you name it. And you're right - anything that hits the floor is a goner. She has a cardboard box that she's been slowly shredding, but that's okay - it's hers to shred... although I suspect she's been EATING said cardboard, too, which might explain why she's chubby despite being on a strict diet.

I'd like a dog someday, but we just move around too much at the moment... cats are more adaptable, usually acceptable in more apartments than dogs, and relatively easy to take care of... unless yoga mats are involved, of course!

Becky said...

Hey Laura,

Did they find their dog? Is this the "Griffon"? I hope you enjoy your company! Glad the link I sent was something you were interested in! Good luck! And yes, as a new dog owner, we're having a terrible time finding an apartment in Pendleton right now that'll take both a dog and a cat (and 2 kids), especially a big dog like ours. You are right to be concerned!

Got to LOVE this weather eh? I'll take an "Indian Summer" over none at all :-).

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Becky! Yes, the dog (Gypsy the griffon) finally came home, thank goodness. She was filthy and soaked - probably 'cause she ran herself ragged in the woods, then waded into the lake to cool off. Sigh. We were so darn worried about her - and it ruined my whole day.

Anyhoo, Dan and I have enjoyed our weekend visitors. Thanks again for the NOLA link - I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, good luck with finding an apartment that will take the whole crew... it's a pain in the arse, I know!

And, yes, the weather is awesome! But where was it three months ago?! Grr.