This piece is dedicated in part to Paul Dallaghan who, when he teaches pranayama tells students on their ladies’ holiday to avoid certain exercises, and to Jessica Blanchard, a brilliant Astanga practitioner who is also an Ayurvedic counselor and the woman who illuminated for me the practice I’m about to share.
As a former marathoner, ever since I can remember I was either exercising or practicing through my ladies’ holiday. Toiling, sweating, feeling wiped out and suffering with pain.
If you fitness folks examine your conscious, most of you know why I would hate to skip more than a day of seeming sweat-tastic bliss. It’s a fear-based drive that most like to introduce to others as will power. It’s a voice that says “if you don’t exercise for three days in a row, your body fat ratio will go way off, and your butt is going to expand! And you’ll weigh ten more pounds every five minutes! And you’ll be out of shape and…” the irrationality goes on and on. It weaves a tight fence that really separates a woman from reality.
In fact, this exercising and hard driving through the tenderest part of the cycle just alienates the body. I mean, we really need all the energy we can get inside of our bodies for those few days. And then we end up grinding ourselves down to the metal, feeling crabby, like all we want to do is dive under the covers with a bucket of dark chocolate or cookie dough-laden gourmet gelato. We become our biggest enemies and all we want to do is hide.
Anyway, so as I moved away from long-distance running and into a more exclusive place with Astanga Mysore. I was just really hell bent on practicing every day except the moon days and Saturdays (traditional off days). Then one day, this teacher during a workshop intensive (that I paid dearly in tuition and flight costs to attend and couldn’t imagine missing a full day of) encouraged me to take three days off over my ‘ladies holiday.’ What?! I gasped silently as I smiled at her and nodded my head yes.
What the heck was she talking about – three days?! After all the work I had done to get into all of the series and move on to the next, I wasn’t about to take three days off per month. Somehow the topic came up with her again at a meal. “You just need to give yourself a break. Walk on the beach, meditate, do something relaxing.”
What is this lazy person talking about! I protested in the quiet of my mind as I nodded yes and smiled at her, again. After all, she was my instructor for Ayurveda so I should just be a star, fake student and go along with it.
Then I heard through the grapevine that she is highly regarded among senior practitioners and she does third series. Okay, I thought, now I might pay attention. So I tried it. I took three days off over my holiday and sat on the beach, walked along, played, did some restorative poses, listened to relaxing music… and because I realized how hard I had been on myself, cried myself clean.
And let me tell you, when I got back on the mat on day four, I was even more flexible and energetic than ever before! The paradox was now common logic. And I’ve since looked very forward to my period as a chance to go inward. Regarding the Yoga practice, a woman is much better for meditation and a restorative 15 minutes with her bum against the wall and legs running up it, listening to Snatam Kaur or the like — your mind is exercising too, remember, and giving it a rest will do wonders just as much.
It’s been a great relief and has had the opposite effect on my energy levels and body than what I had feared. I guess the best word would be refreshing, and isn’t that how a holiday should be?