June 1, 2012

The Times, They Are A-Changin’.

The times, they are a-changin’. – Bob Dylan

I know, I know. They always are. But at certain times of the year, you really feel the change.

Now that spring is turning into summer, the roses I just pruned have grown over two feet. Laundry that used to require four loads now fits in three as bulky sweatshirts and jeans go into hibernation. The cantaloupes at the grocery store have moved from the refrigerator in the produce section of the market (code for “we’ve travelled very long and far to get to your cart”) to the bins at the front of the store. The robin has returned to her nest in the climbing hydrangea and spends a great deal of time each afternoon yelling at my dog when he gets too close for comfort.

All of these shifts and changes require recalibration on my part. Some require more of me – more time out in the yard with my clippers. Some require less – one less load of wash on laundry day makes me a very happy lady! Some are confusing – it can take me weeks to adjust whenever they move anything at the grocery store. While others are amusing – my dog weighs almost 70 pounds and is terrified of that bossy mama robin.

I’ve never been a person who has handled changed easily. Rather, I have always tended to fall happily into comfortable rhythms and patterns. If I look back over my life, depending on the circumstances, change has made me vaguely out of sorts, grumpy and has even sent me into some full-fledged tailspins. But as I look back, I also notice that the way I handle change is changing. While the big stuff can still throw me for a loop, overall, I’ve become much more flexible. It is much easier for me to go with the flow. I’ve even noticed myself resisting my daughter when I feel her pushing me into little traditions such as weekly taco night or morning rituals. Rather than feeling comfortable, the patterns she seeks leave me feeling a little crowded and boxed in.

What’s behind this change in my ability to navigate changes? In large part, I credit my yoga practice for helping me to stay even-keeled in the face of the changes great and small that life brings my way.

Every single time I unroll my yoga mat, my body is different. Beyond that, there is absolutely no predicting the shifts and changes. Some days I can palm the floor, others I can barely reach my ankles. Some days my practice feels like a luxurious massage, others like a grueling work-out. Some days, my shoulders require every ounce of my focus, sometimes it’s my hips, and still other times it’s my back. Some days I am completely engaged on my mat, others I am a daydreaming disaster. Some days I want to stay in certain postures and explore for minutes at a time, and other days those some postures are completely uninspiring.

Ten years of regular yoga practice have afforded me a profound intimacy with constant change. Granted the changes that I confront on my yoga mat are not earth-shattering or life-altering. I know firsthand that injuries come and go, flexibility ebbs and flows, abilities shift, impossibilities regularly become possible, fears disappear, and emotions can shift in the time it takes you to breathe in and out once. Practice handling all of these little changes has helped me develop a certain peace with change. Practicing yoga has helped me get more comfortable with the reality that the only constant in life is change.

Over time, the willingness to go with the flow that began on my mat has extended to changes off my mat. Knowing clearly that “this too shall pass,” makes it easier to handle the rough stuff. Similarly, that same knowledge has helped me loosen my grip on the good stuff. That said, like everything, my ability to handle changes is also subject to fluctuation. Some days I’m better than others. While I haven’t been able to hone in on a rhyme or reason for my fluctuating flexibility on my yoga mat, I do have an inkling as to what helps keep me flexible off of it. It’s my awareness. The simple act of noticing that “the times, they are a-changin’,” helps immeasurably in handling those changes.

I am grateful for the gifts of my practice in times like this, when change piles upon change as spring flows into summer. Thanks to yoga, these changes stir my curiosity and feel exciting. In an interesting twist, this season of change affects me on my mat as well. You see, the heat and humidity of summer change my practice by making me feel fabulously flexible. And that’s a change I love!

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