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On Not Going to Yoga

Like many people, I contracted COVID this fall. Indeed, my entire family did. No one was seriously ill, but the three of us were a cranky, feverish, aching, tired mess. I dragged some foam mattresses we keep for guests into the middle of the living room, and there we sprawled with our delighted cats. We watched two Lord of the Rings movies (extended versions) and two Percy Jackson movies. We took many naps. The hammock in our tiny backyard is the only reason I’ve gotten any fresh air to speak of in over a week now.

The fatigue is real.

This has disrupted many things in our lives. Among them, I have not attended a yoga class in a couple of weeks. Looking back over the last while, I realize that this COVID slump is the longest I’ve gone without doing yoga in months. I've been out of town and missed classes, but then I did my own self-guided practices, so I got enough of a fix.

Not this time. I did pull out my yoga mat several times, but I mostly ended up just lying on it, idly watching the ceiling fan or the wind-blown clouds, too tired to do a damn thing.

My poor, tired body. Yes, I've had COVID and spent much of the past several days abed, so there's a reason my muscles feel like pond sludge.

But I feel very aware that in missing yoga, I'm missing even more than the pleasure and need of a round of cardio. I’m super excited to go out biking again in the brisk fall air. That will be totally awesome. Bike, sunshine, bliss. Maybe I’ll write an essay about it. It’s not a yoga class, though.

Missing yoga specifically means, for me, that I feel more emotionally off-balance and physically anxious than usual.

I've gotten used to having yoga, on the regular, to ground out my stress response to this, that, and the other thing. The lightning passes through me, then ebbs away with each slow, intentional breath, and dissipates into my mat, the studio floor, the earth down below. My heart rate slows, and I feel each separate vertebra in my neck as I breathe into my spine and stretch out long. Everything in my life is the same, but I am different.

I am calm, rather than agitated. I can recognize and parse my feelings. I can set aside my ready hurt, so quickly convinced that a query is an attack, and risk empathy. I can ruefully acknowledge that sick, tired, quarantined-together family members are extremely likely to suffer from explosions. I can forgive myself. I can consider forgiving my loved ones, even if they continue to drive me crazy.

This experience has been instructive. I’ve had more time and a more flexible schedule recently than I usually do, and it won’t last. I have greatly enjoyed having all the time in the world to go to a yoga class. Sometime in the next months, my schedule is going to change again. Time will tighten up, lose its elasticity. When that happens, I know now that I need to be ready. I will need to make sure I make time for yoga.

Because I have realized that I do not want to be who I am when I don’t go to yoga.

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