When I was little, our family was five around the table for dinner every night at 6 p.m. I really cannot remember a time when we were not all there together. Dinner balanced out the day, and dinner was always balanced. Our plates were filled equally with a protein, veggies and a starch. One night was fish, another steak, another meatballs, potatoes and peas. We served ourselves, and we had to finish everything on our plates. Dinner was like a reset button on the day. Whatever the day was, it was shared around the table over an abundant plate.
On a recent holiday weekend, I picked up a yoga class while out of town. It was hot yoga, the room heated to at least 95 degrees. Twenty minutes into the class, I was wondering if it would be too much of a scene to roll up my mat and take leave. It was tough; it was hot; it was not my usual practice, and it had barely begun. Plus, my mind was busy with things at work and at home; I was preoccupied.
In between instructions, the teacher spoke to us and, after a while, between her words and the flow, my mind settled as my body worked through the poses.
Be here, she said. Your practice will be whatever it is. What matters is that you showed up. So you might as well be present.
Could she read my mind?
Your practice is like clearing your plate, she continued. You get to come here and hit the reset button.
She kept on talking, engaging our minds as we engaged our muscles. She told us of her 10-year-old daughter being nervous to start the school year, fretting that the year would begin the same as how the old one ended, fearful that the June stories would be the September ones, too. She was too young to know that the summer served as her reset button.
Hearing this, I was reminded of my daughter at that age when she landed a spot in a sought-after private school. A lot of wonderful things came out of the two years she spent there but, in the end, I wanted her back in the public system. Everyone at the school balked, except for one mother whose daughter had actually just been accepted after two attempts at the application process. Although we were taking opposite routes, she said to me, There is never a problem re-evaluating and re-directing. I had not asked for these words, but they were generous words all the same. And I have never forgotten them. This mother understood the value of resetting.
It occurred to me that I have had to hit the reset button many times in my life and, from a positive perspective, doing so has been a useful tool.
One hour into the practice, I was feeling good, and we moved into Pigeon. Pigeon is a hip opener, and I have been told that emotions are stored in the hips. To get into Pigeon, the body sets up in Down Dog, an inverted “V” with hands and feet on the mat, and the bottom pressed to the sky with straight legs and straight back. To reach Pigeon, the right leg lifts and swings under the body, bending to rest flush on the floor with the shin parallel to the front of the mat. The right hip sits down as the left leg stretches out behind. Arms reach up and forward so that the body is ultimately prone with one knee tucked in and the forehead touching the mat. Then, the body stays still.
I find Pigeon to be a difficult pose. My hips are often tight and, for me, any hip opener is taxing. Truth be told, I do not know how much I really believe that emotions are stored in the hips. But this practice surprised me. As usual, it was work to rest in Pigeon, and maybe the instructor saw me fidgeting. She came over and pressed my right hip to the floor with her right hand, and pressed upward on my back with her left. My body was flush with the floor, my hip opened more and, to my surprise, a few tears popped out. I was grateful to have my face towards the floor, my eyes closed and hidden from view. We moved to the other side, the left leg forward this time, and the teacher came back over and repeated the press. A few more quiet tears.
I was reset.
The instructor filled the final half hour with core exercises and a lot of stretching. With my mind no longer busy, I realized I had reached the end of class without beating a hasty retreat. For this day, my plate was cleared. I was at the dinner table again, the class my instant family, the practice my balanced meal. We finished with three Ohms in unison.