Parallels of Shoveling Sticky Snow and a Sticky Hip On My Yoga Mat.
I’m one of those crazy people who enjoy shoveling snow. I like working up a sweat even though it’s cold outside. I love looking up from my work to see winter’s beauty. I like the rhythmic, repetitive motions. It’s a little like yoga for me. Listening to the sound of the shovel is like focusing on the sound of my breath on my mat. When I get into my groove, shoveling can seem almost meditative. I’ll confess that finishing the job is also something I enjoy. Looking back to see the driveway and front walk safe and clear provides a real feeling of satisfaction. And the feeling of flopping into a chair for a rest is almost as rewarding as savasana at the end of practice.
It has been an incredibly snowy winter here in Philadelphia, so I’ve had ample opportunity to enjoy some shoveling. And I did enjoy it. Until the storm that socked us for two days last week, that is. The first day of the storm was actually fine. In fact, it was snow shoveling at its best. A lot of easy-to-shovel, light, fluffy snow. My daughter and I spent some time together in the morning clearing the driveway. I went back out later in the afternoon and did it again. We went to bed feeling rather pleased with ourselves and the state of our driveway.
During the night, Mother Nature dumped another eight inches of snow on us. From the window, it looked beautiful. It was the kind of scene that makes my father proclaim, “It’s a winter wonderland!” Every branch of every tree was laden with a layer of white. Even the little twigs of our shrubs looked like they had frosting on them. As lovely as it is to look at, that kind of sticky snow is nothin’ but trouble for us shovelers. It’s wet. It’s heavy. It sticks to the shovel as stubbornly as it sticks to the trees. It’s exhausting.
Knowing all this, my husband and I headed out a little less enthusiastically than in other storms. But we had no idea just how tough it was going to be. As I bent to lift the first shovelful, it did not budge. This stuff was like poured concrete! To make matters worse, we’d had some freezing rain the evening before, so in addition to being unbelievably heavy, the snow was stuck to the driveway like Krazy Glue. Clearly, my husband was going to have to knuckle under and use our hand-me-down snow blower. That left me with the job of following behind scraping up the stuck stuff.
I sure got the fuzzy side of that lollipop. I tried to stay positive, I really did. I must have reminded myself to look at the beautiful trees a hundred times. I tried to find a rhythm. I thought about all the exercise I was getting. Nothing worked. The job was physically grueling and went at an excruciatingly slow pace. Not only that, but it was impossible to get all the stuck stuff unstuck. When I looked back to check my progress, there was very little to feel pleased about. What was done (and it was always a ridiculously small area for the amount of time we’d been working) didn’t meet any of our standards for a cleared driveway. I wound up throwing myself a grumpy, little “pity party” for the duration of the job.
Because of the loud inner-din of my pity party, it was only upon reflection that I recognized the parallels between this odious job and my yoga practice. The tortuously slow pace. The extremely taxing nature of the job. The critical need to maintain a clear, accepting mindset. I’ve been working through all of these lately on my mat when taking postures that involve lotus (padmasana) or half-lotus position (ardha padmasana).
You see, until the last year, lotus has not been a challenge for me. My hips have always been perfectly willing to open to allow me to sit in this most iconic of yoga postures. However, something changed last winter. Maybe I started walking more. Maybe I started sleeping in a different position. Maybe it was just time for me to explore the inner workings of my hip with a whole lot more focus. Who the heck knows. Bottom line? My right hip is often tight. On days when it is, when I move toward lotus, I feel a twinge in my knee. As any good yoga teacher will tell you, twinges in knees are not to be ignored. The knee is not designed to stretch. In fact, I don’t recommend challenging your knees at all. In other words, knees are like E.F. Hutton. When they speak, people ought to listen!
It has taken herculean effort to subdue my ego (“But, I can do that!”) and to heed my own advice (and the advice of my knee) to stick with the modifications and hip openers that will eventually lead me back to lotus. My “progress” has been glacial. In fact, I keep reminding myself that there is no progress. There is only what is. I have had to work shockingly hard to maintain an open, accepting mindset during this particular leg of my yoga journey. On good days, I manage to avoid judging myself as “Not In Lotus.” I actually embrace these postures as they were intended — as stretches that will open my hip and restore my body to balance. On other days, I throw myself a grumpy, little pity party.
But there is one more parallel for me to realize. I did finally finish the job of shoveling that super heavy snow. Little by little, I was able to get the stuck-on snow off the driveway. It was hard. It wasn’t a lot of fun. And I had to go back out later in the day to scrape some more, but, eventually, the job was done. Little by little, I have faith that my hip will re-open to lotus. The good news for me is that while some of the “work” ahead will be hard, it’s a whole lot more fun than scraping the driveway. Better yet, when I look back to see how far I’ve come, I know I will feel incredibly satisfied with all I’ve learned along my way.
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