San Diego is on fire. There are currently 6 fires burning near us. It is very surreal being here and hearing how friends saw the fire down the street from their home, and had to evacuate, or couldn't get to their home because the roads are blocked, or are too scared to even leave their home. I went to work this morning at the Ashtanga Yoga Center, which is pretty close to one of the the fires. Though it is mostly contained, you can still see plumes of smoke and there is soot in the air. It is like it's snowing, bits of smoke-flakes coming down from the sky. This is the view from the studio...
Coming into work, listening to the radio, smelling the air, it seems so crazy. Life is so fragile. One moment, people are thinking about their dinner plans, the next they are thinking what to pack for an evacuation. From my home we could see the flames and the fire. Legoland is in-between our home and the fire, so we were pretty sure they would throw significant resources toward it, so it wouldn't get to us. None the less, our landlord told us we should prepare for an evacuation. The rational thing to do especially with fair warning like that, is to either calmly, or possibly frantically, get together things we'd need...medicine, clothes, diapers, toiletries, computers. None of that occurred to me in the moment, I heard that list on the radio this morning, and was awestruck at how crazy I was to not react at all. The only thought that came to mind is, it's just stuff, as long as we get out of there, everything else can be replaced.
Looking further into my reaction, or lack there of, I suspect there is more to it. There is something in me that likes to pretend it's not real. Whether this is avoidance or more like an animal that freezes in the face of danger, I'm not sure. I suspect it has to do with my lungs and fear of death. I've had asthma since I was a child. My biggest trigger is smoke, so these fires happening all around us is especially scary. My partner, Wayne, likes to call me a zombie, since they had to resuscitate me last time I had a big asthma attack in 1999. As it so happened, it was shortly after that, in 2000 that I found Ashtanga yoga. I was drawn to it, because of it's focus on the breath. Finding Ashtanga helped my breath and changed my life forever.
Today when I came into the yoga studio, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, so I decided to be with myself in a Mysore practice. Since Tucker, I've been mostly taking led classes. If you're not familiar with Ashtanga yoga, in a Mysore class you go through the sequence on your own and the teachers come around and adjust you. It's amazing the difference, and power, of going with my own flow and breath. I was so emotional coming in today, that my initial instinct was to just do first series, which is a lot of forward bends. I waited to decide, and when it got to the split, I changed gears and went for second series instead, which is a lot of heart openers. Energetically, I made the choice to open up and be with my feelings, instead of closing off. All morning I've felt that I wanted to cry, so instead of shying away, I thought I'd step into it and just go with it. Then something shifted in me. I felt the practice embrace me as an old friend. I haven't been able to practice as much as I'd like since having a child, and when I do, it is rarely with full power, as it was before. Though I'm not discounting the full moon energy and the extra cup of coffee I had this morning, which probably contributed to my ability to stay on the ride today.
I'm so glad I stuck with it, as it was a transformative practice. In one of the simple backbends, camel pose, I felt like I was suffocating. And instead of coming out of it, I stayed in it longer and focused on lengthening my breath. Ironically, the poses that came after that, more backbends, which are usually way harder for me, were a breeze. Weird. But there is magic in yoga.
One of the things I love about Ashtanga is the power of the sequence. The wave is there to ride, if you continually choose to stay on it. Dristi (which is eye gaze & focus), breath, bandhas (internal locks), momentum... Staying on the ride today meant not taking any time to think about what's going on with the fires, or the potential discomfort in the poses that I don't love, and sometimes avoid, etc. Without that room for distraction, I felt a sense of freedom that I haven't felt in a long time. All the sudden all the craziness of the world outside melted away, and somehow, so did the excuses that I have used since having a baby; being overweight, lack of bandhas, motivation, knee pain, back pain, etc. I'm not sure if it was that I was already in a place of feeling when I started... But there I was, just me, pulling it all together to be present with myself in this moment, in this practice. No thinking, no excuses, no holding back, and ironically no pain, yay!
So now, afterwards, basking in the high of a great practice, remembering the beautiful friendship I once had with it, I am left to wonder wether this window cracking will let some fresh air into the room? I miss the discipline of my practice. There is merit to some of my excuses, like not wanting to to take extra time away from my child. And practicing with him is more then challenging. I know, and admire, other yogi moms that are able to make it work. Though today, there is too much smoke to see the forest through the trees, maybe if I put the question out there, an answer will come. But that doesn't matter today. It is true that it is just stuff, and as long as the families are safe, that is the most important thing. I'm grateful that I had yoga today to bring me back to myself and give me a hug. If you are here dealing with this fire, or any crisis for that matter, I highly recommend taking a moment to focus inward, be with your emotions instead of avoiding them and do a yoga practice.
The light has changed in the studio, as there is a smoke cloud above. I pray for all the families that are affected my this, as well as the animals that have been robbed of their homes. I am grateful for all of the firemen and woman that are are there putting out fires as well as the emergency staff helping out the families in need. I will go get my kid now and go home and pack a bag I guess. Maybe we'll go to LA this weekend for some fresh air.