"If you don't take care of your body, where are you going to live?" -- Unknown
This past weekend I was at a yoga workshop. An intense all-weekend-long yoga workshop in D.C. 2 hours on Friday evening, 4 hours on Saturday, and 2 hours on Sunday. It was with an incredible teacher (Jodi Petlin) who came out all the way from Montana and I felt called to attend. It was incredible! I was so glad I carved out the time to go deeper in my practice, to learn tips and techniques from an expert and to absorb some of the positive energy and spiritual food for thought offered across the weekend.
Ironically, however, one of the most powerful things I learned across the retreat, was an incident during the final day involving my dear husband, Taylor, who was basically bribed (by me) to attend the very last workshop with Jodi. What we both did not realize, was that the final workshop was mostly dedicated to inversions - or handstands, headstands, and forearm-stands. For most people, and even many yogis, the idea of going upside down is odd, strange, and more than a little scary. My husband falls squarely in that category. He had never really learned to do a handstand before, nor had he spent any time practicing one at his leisure. This was a brand spanking new experience for the guy.
He was a great sport throughout the early parts of practice, and when we got to our very first handstand - which was practiced by kicking up against a wall - he gave a few valiant efforts to get up there but it wasn't working. Plus, the poor guy was tired. As a side-note, he had ran almost 20 miles in preparation for an upcoming marathon the day before (!) so he was sore and getting a bit pissed off. Jodi sensed this and came over to try and offer a hands-on assist to get him up the wall. The class stopped and watched. And with Jodi's help, Taylor was able to get his legs all the way up - for a second - before frantically and quickly landing back down on the mat.
In Jodi's mind, it was the perfect teaching moment. In Taylor's mind, he was freaked out and totally cooked. Jodi asked him (in front of the entire class) how it felt to do handstand. Taylor said (in front of the entire class), that he almost just died. The best part about this moment though, even though he hadn't almost just died, was that he felt he had, and was completely, 100% entitled to that sensation. He was freaked out trying this strange, new, different pose and it IS kind of terrifying when you've never practiced it before. He got way out of his comfort zone, and though it hadn't killed him, it felt like it almost did.
Jodi asked if he'd like to try it again. I held my breath, excited for him to give it another chance. And he (politely) but forcefully said - um, no, I'm done.
It was perfect. It was the perfect example of listening to your body. I was suddenly so darn proud of him. In all honesty, I don't know if I would have been brave enough to say "I'm done" even if my body was indeed, cooked. In fact, I practiced handstands of my own a few times during the same session and think I may have aggravated my old tailbone injury because I can sometimes be stubborn and egotistical and I wanted to prove I could do it (and maybe even impress Jodi). It wasn't good. My tailbone hurts again. I'm sensing more epsom-salt-baths ahead. I probably should have taken a rest and quietly observed more. And there was Taylor, simply, confidently, forcefully listening to his body. And saying no.
No can be the hardest word of all to say. No - I can't come to that event/coffee date/diner party/wedding/football game/birthday party/wine tasting/yoga class/ etc. Even when things are 'good for us' sometimes saying no is the best possible option. We can get so distracted by the outer world and so in our heads that we don't recognize cues in the body of 'no' and 'hello up there, I'm cooked' when they occur. That's when we get sick. That's when we get injured. That's when we are forced to slow the train on down.
So the next time you're asked to do something and you're not 100% sure the answer. Close your eyes. Take 3 deep and even breaths. And feel yourself drop a little deeper into your body - and sense - if your body could talk, what its answer would be. Then, saying no, might not be so hard. It might be the most crystal clear thing you've heard all day.