So, for a few months now I’ve been doing something. I haven’t been talking about it, not wanting to jinx myself or proclaim commitment before it actually takes root. But, after surviving my first Bikram yoga class last night, I am here to announce that I have become an exerciser.
If you don’t know me, you’re probably unimpressed. If you do know me, though, then you know that I’ll take an elevator up one story. I like sweat, but only the kind that comes from lying in the sun for hours and definitely not the kind that comes with a pounding pulse and heavy breath. Or so was the case for my entire life before this summer.
I’m not sure what happened exactly. Maybe it was the structureless-ness of not being in school and not having a steady job. Maybe it was having a toddler and realizing how intensely frustrating that can be and how that frustration can just build and build and build inside until I want to explode. Or maybe it was an existential desire to reclaim my body after pregnancy and the first year of motherhood, a nearly two year period that is both deeply grounded in the physical and also deeply grounded in the body of a different being. Whatever it is, something happened and, after myriad invitations from my friends Thea and Cheyenne to join them at yoga class, I went.
And I’ve kept going. I thought I would need markers to keep myself plugging along, but after I met my first goal/reward (go for a month and then you can buy your own mat and stop renting one from the studio and then daydreaming about what sweaty beast was facedown on it before you), something clicked. Yoga started to become something I genuinely looked forward to. I started to crave that feeling of having inventoried my body, of having felt it and been deeply connected to it. And then, a few weeks ago, as I lay on my mat in the darkness of the closing Savasana, my body ringing gently along with the singing bowl, I felt myself do something I had never done before.
I thanked my body.
I thanked it for the years it carried me despite my best efforts to deter it. I thanked it for carrying Maxine and birthing her, for healing while summoning the strength to sustain her life. I thanked it for marking pleasure and pain, for scarring, for slowing me down and pushing me along. I thanked it for bringing me to class that night.
And I meant it, in that deep, deep way where gratitude spreads out in an unending expanse, settling into every molecule, gently touching the component parts while simultaneously recognizing a glorious whole.
That was my first transformative moment with yoga. The second happened last night after my first Bikram session.
Bikram is brutal. In 110 degree heat, for 90 minutes, my body and I went someplace I would have said we would never, ever go and CERTAINLY never go voluntarily. But there I was–there WE were–body and mind completely committed, working together, vibrating in the heat. I have never sweated so much in my entire life. NEVER.
When I got home from class, I was still soaked through. My hair and clothes were completely drenched and I couldn’t stop smiling. The breakthrough isn’t the workout, though. The breakthrough came after I showered.
John very sweetly made dinner so it would be ready when I got home. When we sat down to eat and he put a heaping bowl of pasta in front of me, for the first time in my entire non-kid life, I didn’t relate to it from a place of guilt. No, I dogged it.
Pasta has been one of the last hold-out foods for me from my years of struggling with eating. I have, for whatever reason, not been able to undo the equation that pasta=bad. I see it and cringe. I avoid it whenever possible. Pasta has been the stuff of straight-up nightmares for me for well over a decade.
So, as I sat there and inhaled the steaming bowl of pasta last night, the thanks that I started on the mat during Savasana a few weeks ago, was made complete. I happily offered my body fuel, a thanks for what it had just done with me and a launching of our next round of activity.
There is something about being a parent that offers the world up anew through the eyes of your child. For eleven months now, John and I have had the incredible fortune–and unfathomable undoing–of walking through our days infused with the perspective of M. She notices so many things we take for granted–the splattering of water hitting a puddle from the gutter, the tiny flowers in our grapefruit tree, that fingers bend and when they do we can use our hands in different ways.
Lately, though, as M transitions out of baby food and into the realm of food the rest of us enjoy, I find myself marveling at tastes and textures in their simplest forms. Eggs are slippery and elusive in a mouth without teeth; blackberries offer a juicy burst before a bit of chewiness emerges; plain tofu is actually delicious. In a food world without salt, I find myself tasting in a way I can’t recall as I nibble on M’s meals or eat her leftovers and rejects. Cinnamon is a powerful spice and coconut is surprisingly creamy. Potatoes are warm and wonderful mush. And apple juice? Nothing beats it in its purest form.
M eats for sustenance and M eats to learn. She eats what she wants and discards the rest, stopping when she’s full even if she loves what she’s in the middle of eating. She pokes and prods at the food in front of her, trying to figure it out. She remembers, too–noting that potato cubes are not the same as banana cubes even if they’re sharing a spot on the table before her. Her relationship with food, while mediated by what we offer her, remains so uninhibited. It is a lesson on eating to watch her, a lesson in noticing what goes in my mouth, in considering it, on eating to tend to my needs. As she learns, so do I.
Do any of you parental types know what I’m talking about? Have you ever had one of those moments with food where you become conscious of your relationship with it and of different possibilities? Kids aren’t the only way to these considerations, i know. M has just been my personal invitation.
Anyway, in honor of M, I share a recipe that’s entered the weekly rotation in our house. Applesauce is such a simple thing to make and so delicious, too. Hot off the stove with a dash of cinnamon is my personal favorite way to eat it.
makes roughly 6 cups
15 apples (I’d recommend Granny Smith, but this week I’m trying Gala in hopes of making it a little less tart for M)
apple juice or water
Peel and core your apples, slicing them into similarly sized pieces. Toss in a pot. Add liquid to coat the bottom (this prevents burning). Cut a piece of wax paper and press down over the apples. Cook over low heat, stirring periodically, until your desired texture is reached. Add cinnamon to taste (if you’d like). Devour! Oh–and if you want your applesauce to be a little extra awesome, stir in a little bit of maple syrup. So so good.