August 26, 2011

Are There Cobwebs On Your Mat?

Brushing Off The Effects Of A Little Neglect Is Hard, But Rich, Work.

There is a house around the corner from me that has been empty for years. While the house is structurally beautiful, it looks forlorn. It’s dramatic windows are always dark. Some have been broken over the years and are boarded up. The grass in the lawn hasn’t been cut in so long that it looks like a wild meadow. The hedges along the front of the house are so tall and shaggy that they tower over the windows on the first floor. The long driveway is always covered in leaves and limbs. It is evident at first glance that no one is there to make that house a home.

After a summer spent mainly away from home, when I pulled into the driveway this weekend, I was horrified to find that my house had an awful lot in common with the derelict house around the corner. While our windows were (thankfully) still intact, our shrubs had grown tremendously and needed a trim. Our lawn was wildly overgrown. Weeds had reared their heads among the plants in my garden. The driveway was littered with debris from many summer storms. My roses had grown willy-nilly around the garage, while the wisteria on the back fence was literally overtaking the yard. The crowning touch of our abandoned house look? Actual spider webs cloaking the front door.

It’s amazing how quickly you see the effects of a little neglect. While it may not seem like much, the few minutes you spend plucking weeds, or sweeping the front step, or wiping fingerprints or dust from a window make a big difference to the appearance of your house. These little, caring gestures matter. While each might seem insignificant on its own, together they can make the difference between a house and a home.

As we proved to ourselves this week, it’s also amazing how quickly neglect can be reversed. A couple of afternoons mowing, pruning and weeding can be enough to return a lawn to order. Just an hour or two with a blower and a broom can get driveway and patio ship-shape again. A morning scrubbing, wiping and straightening can have a similar effect on the interior of a house. The work of restoring a house from neglect requires more energy and hard work than the little gestures required for upkeep. However, the work is not insurmountable. In fact, because progress is so visible and so immediate, once you get going, the work of (literally) brushing off the cobwebs of neglect can be among the most rewarding you can do.

Summer, for many people, can be a time away from yoga as well as home. Perhaps having your kids home during the days has crimped your yoga routine. Maybe the desire to be outdoors enjoying the balmy days has shifted you away from your mat and into your running or walking shoes. Perhaps you simply fell out of the habit of practicing while you were on vacation, and never got back into it. Whatever the reason, like my home at the end of a fun-filled summer, your body and your yoga practice might be showing the effects of a little neglect.

Never fear. Brushing the cobwebs off your mat can be as rewarding as brushing them off your front porch. Often, like the work required to spruce up a house after a few weeks of neglect, the hardest part is getting started. Once you do, however, you will immediately feel the rewards of your work. (You might feel a little more than the rewards too! Muscles get notably tighter after a few weeks off the mat. I learned that myself this summer!)

Returning to your yoga practice is a rich experience. Because you might be a little out of practice, it’s unlikely that you’ll drift into autopilot. You’ll stay focused and aware throughout your whole practice. Because you might be a little less limber, you’re going to feel more in each posture. These heightened sensations will allow you to delve even deeper into your understanding of stretches you’d stopped thinking too much about ages ago. Because you may need to regain some stamina, you may find your “edge” sooner. This will require you to do the hard work of setting aside your ego in order to honor your body’s needs. All of this inner work can create a deeply rewarding practice on all levels – physical, mental and spiritual.

So, if you’ve spent more time than you’d like off your mat this summer, come back. Even if you’re sure you will feel as derelict and rickety as the house around the corner from me, come back. The work of brushing off the effects of a little neglect pales in comparison to the rewards you will immediately realize. It only took us a few days to make our house feel and look like home again after a summer away. I’m willing to bet you’ll feel at home again on your mat within an hour.

Welcome back,
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