Day 86- one thousand crunches of doom

Don’t worry, it is a misnomer. I don’t really do one thousand crunches. I do one hundred. It is a trick I made up, I break it down into four lots of twenty and then two lots of ten; the first twenty crunches with feet on the floor or soles of the feet pressed together and knees wide, the second and third set of twenty with both knees to one side, the fourth set of twenty with both legs straight up and then ten for each leg in a scissor legs position. I have PMS so I wake up and have no energy or will to live, let alone get out of bed. I try to sit down and meditate but I can’t sit still, the cramps are just making life very uncomfortable. I am craving poached eggs. I feel a little dazed and spacey. How is it that every month I can be thrown completely out of sync like this?

I may be acclimatised enough in Indonesia to wear jeans but a hot water bottle would be beyond extreme so to deal with my cramps, I decide to exercise. I want to do a full flowing practice but I just don’t have the energy or the motivation. Since it is my abdomen giving me hell, I am just going to give it hell right back. With my ‘thousand crunches of doom’. The repetitive nature of the exercise clears up my fuzzy little mind and my irritability slips away, at least for the time being.

In the afternoon, the cramps threaten to return so I do another set of crunches of doom then plank, side plank, single leg lifts, reverse crunches and any other core exercise I can think of. When I practice asana, I generally leave out the core exercises, feeling like it turns my flowing yoga practice into too much of a workout. It’s like I think there is no room for the sacred when you do crunches. But today, I find the sacred in my crunches. Even though my body is moving, inside I find stillness. If nothing else, it is meditation in ACTION.

Day 38- listening to the wind of my soul

‘I am ready to listen to the wind of my soul­’ – Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

I wake up and head straight for the yoga mat. Today I have the intention and gentle determination to make my entire yoga practice a meditation. I find a recording that I have downloaded of my friend and teacher, Nicole Goodwin, of Body Mind Life. It is a two-hour class. (I don’t ever make it easy for myself, do I?) I begin to flow and breathe in this practice and for the first half hour I hear the monkey mind wondering off on little tangents as though he is climbing the branches of a tree. I am in bakasana and try to jump back gracefully, but find that because I was not present, I have not lifted into my core and I kind of flop back onto the ground, very un-gracefully. I take a few moments in child’s pose to find the breath. I have always had this experience- when I start to get too airy and I am not present, gravity will pull me down to the ground like a gentle knock to say ‘Hey! Wake up!’

I take some deeper breaths and start to really listen to my breath. It sounds like the wind. I open the door so that some fresh air can come into the room and feel that the breeze is warm. I start moving, this time with full awareness. I find myself in tree pose, balancing on one leg, meditating, when Nicole says, “For those of you who are really feeling that mental stillness, can you sit with that? Meditation in action…When we find stillness in our asana we realise how many different ways there are to meditate. You can meditate, standing on one leg, sweat dripping off your body. You can meditate sitting in your lounge room, sitting in a park, sitting in your car at the traffic lights…”

It really feels like everywhere I turn, there is a message for me about this. Like small confirmations from the universe to say, yes, this is the right way.

By the end of the asana practice, I am lying in savasana completely still and silent, inside and out. The awareness I have cultivated through the asana has created an awareness of stillness, a quiet observant attitude. I eventually sit up and continue the meditation sitting. By the time I finally om and stand up from my mat, over two hours have passed in complete meditation- action, stillness and awareness.