The Last Yama --- Non-Attachment
In April, I had to have an ovarian cyst removed. It was laparoscopic surgery and I was supposed to be back to normal activities after a few days. I was not back to normal. It took some time and effort to convince my doctor that something wasn’t right, but eventually I got the hernia diagnosis I had anticipated, and on May 28th, I will have surgery to repair it.
This word, detachment, leads to my topic du jour. Usually referred to as non-attachment, Aparigraha is the last yama or moral guideline outlined in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. The other yamas are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), and Brahmacharya (moderation). I use the word detachment because I find something compelling about the active form of this word rather than the passive “non-attachment.” I’m sure that says something about me, but that is not today’s rabbit hole.
In January, I usually choose a word of the year to underline or focus my intentions. I chose the word detachment after the upheaval and enforced adaptability of 2020. Clearly I knew what I was doing when I chose that word. I have continued to learn more about teaching online. I have regrouped and switched from rarely demonstrating when teaching in person, to demonstrating all the time online, to not demonstrating at all as I recovered from the last surgery, to easing back into demonstrating this past week, to getting ready to teach solely with verbal instructions again after another surgery.
No one wants to return to surgery so soon. No one wants to shift their methods back and forth numerous times over a period of weeks. And now we can also add the gradual shift from online classes back to in-person classes. This shift off of Zoom is happening at widely different times (and in some cases not happening at all). I hear myself responding to questions about in-person classes from students, some of whom want online options still and some of whom have been itching to get back to in-person for months. I am breathing in and out and letting go some more, and it feels like a continuation of what I’ve been doing for over a year now, what we’ve all been doing for over a year now.
Letting go of how things were, adapting to the latest plot twist. I know I am not alone. I watch my family working through these changes, and my friends and acquaintances. Even though I am relatively healthy and sane, I am generally worn out. I recently read an article in the NY Times on languishing, a mental state between depressed and thriving. The author noted that a large portion of the population is currently inhabiting this space. If this resonates with you, I see you. And if you can manage a bit of detachment as your world remains unsteady, I am doing the same. Cheers to all of us as we navigate Aparigraha, as we practice non-attachment or detachment or whatever word you choose to describe how you are managing.
Now, take a breath and let it go.
Look, Ma, I grew!
All through grade school, I was one of the shortest kids in my class. I hit 5' 6 1/2" sometime in high school. I grew late, with the boys. When I was a performer, we listed height and weight on our resumes. That 1/2" looked clunky on paper so I edged my height upward to 5'7" on paper. It wasn't true but my resume looked cleaner and no one ever put their honest weight either so it seemed minor.
On numerous occasions over the past decade, a student has come in to class after a recent physical and told me that they were 3/4", an inch, even 1 1/2" taller. The common factor for all of these folks was taking Eischens Yoga. Is it possible that yoga made them grow taller? Shoe sizes often change for folks as they begin working unrestricted by shoes or socks, and their foot bones start to spread more fully on the floor. But actual change in height? Why not? Over time, gravity and poor use of the muscles around the joints contributes to the compression of the skeleton, and with it the loss of height we expect with age. The practice of Eischens Yoga asks that we use the muscles in a more balanced way so as to better support the skeleton, and to allow energy to flow through the body. It also creates space between the joints. We see it often in classes after transformation work, someone who is visibly taller or has more space between their head and their shoulders.
I no longer am surprised by these moments in class or by the post-doctor appointment announcement. I love the joy in someone's face and voice as they tell me about their newfound height and that they "haven't been this tall since high school."
I have been pretty proud to retain my height all this time, even as my friends and peers are starting to lose height. I figured that was as good as it got, me not shrinking. Recently, I had my first physical in a couple years. I have been working on the mat over this same period of time on finally getting space between my pelvis and thigh bones. And you know what? I am now officially 5' 7". In my late 40s, I grew half an inch. Maybe that lie on my resume wasn't a lie, but a prophesy?
Deep, and not so deep, thoughts on bodies, movement, yoga, art, shoes, parenting, dogs. You know, life.