For the past year, I’ve tried to carve out a more sustainable existence for myself. No more working until my arms ache and my eyes twitch – I get up and take breaks now. No more skipping yoga because I can only muster the energy to lay on my couch in my underwear “meditating” (with my eyes closed). I’ve traded in some stability, status, and identity in favor of having time to hike with my husband or learning how to make a delectable dark chocolate pudding. It wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, I agonized over it. But once I decided to make the change, it wasn’t nearly as difficult to give up some of my former identity as I’d anticipated.
And yet, there are still things that throw me off kilter. Namely, my Twitter feed. About six months ago, I had to learn to use Twitter for work. A few days in, after getting a hang of the hashtag, I remember blurting out to my officemates, “Wow! Every second I get a new Tweet! New news! An inspirational Rumi quote!” I started tweeting while watching baseball games, I started following Sarah Silverman and laughing at her bawdy jokes at completely inappropriate times. I felt cool being the first one to tell my writer colleague about the Bronx Zoo Cobra feed. It didn’t take me long to realize that Twitter flips my desire switch – it makes me hunger for more. More news. More dancing dog videos. And it makes me feel like I need to do more. Build more followers. Pitch more stories. Find more clients. Social media is tons of fun (have you seen that dancing dog video?), but there’s something insidious about it if we’re not mindful of it. It can lead us to believe that if we aren’t constantly recognized, praised, or otherwise acknowledged, that we’ll cease to exist. I think this irrational annihilation fear is part of what’s at the root of all human desire.
I see it in myself and in others on the yoga mat, too. The desire to be a “good” yogi or to achieve a certain pose can unconsciously turn into a frenzied practice where we dig in and work hard regardless of what our body or mind or nervous system truly needs. We try to be more because who we are—even on the yoga mat—sometimes doesn’t feel like enough to exist.
The other day, I read a quote from L.A. Times essayist Meghan Daum who was talking about how difficult it was to create a web site to promote her work. She said, “The goal here is not fame. The goal is professional and creative sustainability.” A lightbulb went off: The quote reminded me that I didn’t go into the business of being a writer/editor for the fame (which is nonexistent) or because I occasionally get a free yoga top or for any other reason other than my internal compass knew (or hoped) that it would sustain me creatively. And it has. Writing and reading other people’s writing gives me sustenance. Collaborating with other editors and designers fuels an indescribable passion. The quote from Daum reminded me that when I have a moment where I feel like I need to do more or be more, I can focus instead on what truly sustains me and feeds my soul.
I’ve found that the best way to reinforce the practice of creating a balanced, sustainable life isn’t to banish Twitter, it’s to get on my mat and start my sustainability practice there. So, this week I’m offering a pose that nourishes me every time I do it. Supta Bharadvajasana is a restorative pose. And it requires a prop. If any of you overachievers out there have tuned out, just think – you can incorporate one little itty bitty supportive, nourishing pose into your yoga practice. Think of it as a preparation for Savasana. And use your time in the pose to meditate on your breath. Instead of tuning out, sloth-like, bring your attention to the in-breath and the out-breath. As thoughts arise, notice them, and come back to the sensation or sound of your breathing.
Before you begin, place a bolster lengthwise on your mat. Sit sideways on your mat with your right hip next to the end of the bolster. Stretch your legs out in front of you in Dandasana. Then bend your knees and swing both legs so that your shins rest on the floor. Tuck the top of your left foot into your right arch.
Now for the twist: Turn your toward the bolster and gently lay your torso on top of it. If this feels like too much of a stretch, place a folded blanket or two on top of the bolster. Make a little pillow for your head by placing one hand on top of the other. If it feels safe on your neck, rest on your left cheek. Otherwise, turn your head the opposite way and rest on your right cheek. Stay for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Feel the support of the bolster underneath you.
Savor this time of supporting yourself in a healthy way. And let me know – what gives you sustenance (both on the mat and off)?