Saturday, March 3, 2012

After the Meal

I feel my body waking up with the early spring. As the days become longer, I stretch, as if a bear from slumber. Wanting to move again after the rigid cold of winter, I trundled off to the gym for yoga and a sauna. I have a moderate resistance to yoga culture, or more broadly, to any place ripe for evangelism. For some, yoga is exercise, and for some it is the magical cure all for the entire universe. I look at it as something in between those two poles. The deep breathing, the stretching, paying attention to the edge between comfortable and painful, the attitude of loving kindness towards your body, those are the qualities I enjoy. A good class gives me a feeling of gratitude for the time, awe at the human body and a unique sense of fulfillment that comes from tuning into my breathing.
My first class back after winter, I laughed out loud during Shavasana, the minutes at the end of class where you lay on your back and relax. The teacher said that this is the most important time, it is when your body absorbs the benefits of the practice you have just done. It is not a waste of time, you are not just laying there. You are actively relaxing. Then he asked, "Are you able to relax, or are you too busy to be?" And I totally cracked up. That is how I feel! Too busy to be! Ha! I think this guy might have found a new entertainment niche: The Mindful Comedian.
Maybe because I laughed so hard, in a completely silent room, but that idea has stayed with me. My episodes of busyness and frazzled chaos: chasing Colby while I braid her hair, shoving breakfast in Coral's mouth while she talks and talks and talks; wolfing down my apple, making lists while I drive. Too busy to be. Every time I think it, I laugh and relax.
Once dinner had been consumed, I felt the impulse to jump up and do the dishes and get the kids in the bath, and braid their hair and brush their teeth and pick up the toys and wiggle them into pjs and read the stories and sing the songs and turn off the light and and and......on and on. And I thought, "Shavasana". Sitting at the table, we need a moment to absorb the benefits of the meal. As important as a moment of saying “thank you” at the beginning of the meal is relaxing after a meal.
I sparked up the conversation with Craig, who has never done a yoga class, about the idea of Shavasana and relating that practice to meal time. That Shavasana process is what you experience in long, elegant meals at good restaurants. After a sensuous meal there is encouragement to linger: petit fours, coffee, a digestif, there is time, long, lovely time to absorb the benefits and beauty of what you have just received, what you have given yourself. Permission to relax, surrender to the moment, to be. We talked about giving yourself permission for that moment on an ordinary day at home.
So we sat, just for a ten minutes at the end of the meal, and did not jump up. We did not propel onto the treadmill of routine chores. We relaxed and went from the table with ease rather than rush. It was fun, everything got done, and there was a little more happiness in the "doing" of all the chores that followed.


  1. Hi Elvina,
    I think I went through years of being "too busy to be" especially when I was trying to establish my business as a profitable enterprise. You don't even realize that you are rushing from task to chore, impatient to finish each thing just so you can move on to the next thing and be impatient to finish that too! While I did get a lot done, it made impatience and a short-temper a hallmark of my personality, which kind of sucked for everybody. Not to mention stomach aches all the time in the afternoon because I was wolfing my lunch so quickly in an effort to get back to the studio. I had to have a total breakdown before learned to chill, and I don't have any kids in my mix to make it even more challenging. I think since you have Colby and Coral, maybe they can serve as a daily reminder for you to take shavasana whenever you feel that pressure building.

  2. Now I'm thinking of that yoga teacher you had in the city who would say "tense...tense...tense...fahget about it". Ha! I think of that dude every time I do yoga.

  3. I was just thinking about that NYC yoga teacher too! So funny. I recently did some yoga after a long time of not doing was shocking...but also, the first thing was to stand on the front of the mat and feel the alignment of your hit me like a brick, I had not been present in my body for how long? A month, two? Wow.

  4. what a beautiful reminder to slow down (even just a bit).

    thank you.