I’m recently back from a three-week teaching tour in San Antonio, TX and CA that was totally amazing and wonderful! But upon my return I was exhausted. It wasn’t until I was able to let go, rest, and surrender to the bigger energy, that my energy naturally returned. It’s rare that I feel low energy and I had to learn how to not push myself.
I had just returned from California after a three-week teaching tour on the red-eye out of San Jose. It took me days to regain and refill my well. It was only after I let go, surrendered to the tiredness, and chose actions that were nurturing to me physically that my body began to regain energy. I’m grateful to my yoga practice that constantly teaches me how to balance self-effort and grace.
My tour began with an all-levels workshop in San Antonio, TX, followed by Part One of the Ashaya Yoga® In-Depth Study/200-Hour Teacher Training. The dedication and receptivity among the students was so inspiring. Together they created a closely-knit, conscious community of yogis who’ve chosen to bring their best selves forward and make a difference in the world. I’m truly grateful to be among them.
After the training I went to my Mom’s in Mission Viejo, CA for a family visit and work retreat. My sister and brother-in-law from Carlsbad, CA came for dinner one night. I offered a couple private yoga therapy sessions to my Mom and one to my sister. It’s a lot of fun to work with family and it’s so gratifying for me to be able to give back to them.
Then I traveled north to Big Sur, CA to begin my magical journey at Esalen Institute. If you are unfamiliar with Esalen, I encourage you to check it out. This slice of earth is among the most beautiful and holds some of the most spiritually potent energy on the planet. There is a magnetism and power that originates back to the 60’s when Esalen was created and all the way back to the Native American tribes who inhabited that area hundreds of years ago.
I offered a weekend workshop followed by a 5-day retreat. Esalen provides a very special setting for deep introspection and rejuvenation. Nature abounds, especially in January, from the cliffs high above the ocean where Esalen’s campus is situated. Every day we were mesmerized by the migrating whales, spouting and playing just off the shore, by the dolphin schools pulsing in perfect harmony together in and out of the water, the sea otters floating on their backs, and the spawning of thousands of monarch butterflies. Every January the butterflies come to a particular area at Esalen, and surprisingly, to a particular group of trees to mate. The weather was a perfect 65-70º and sunny during midday, which allowed us to have a few practices outside.
I’ll never forget the second to the last morning class outside. The teaching was on the Shiva Nataraja (Lord of the Cosmic Dance), which is a metaphor for the secrets of the universe. One of the teachings is about the whole purpose of the dance. Why does Shiva Nataraja dance? Answer: “For the play of it.” Play is for its own sake and is self-fulfilling. Within play is a kind of beingness, a creativity, that engages you (especially when we were kids) to imagine and expand beyond your limitations. I remember as kid I always loved recess at school because I could run, move, play games, and be outside. It was fun. I also loved summer vacation, again for the same reason of fun. But as we get older, play can loose its priority and importance. Dominated by pressures in society, work, relationship, family, or health issues, it’s common to forget how to play. But the act of playing is a vital ingredient to good health and it’s essential for the development of children. Work, on the other hand, is for a purpose. It’s for a reason outside of itself. Work is conditional. Play is unconditional. Work is to get something done. Play is for no reason. Work is karma (the laws of cause and effect). Play is lila (Sanskrit for game, sport, or divine play).
For his own delight (for the fun of it) Shiva limits himself from the formless into form, from the infinite to the finite, and from spirit into matter, in order to know himself more fully, in order to gain yet another perspective on who he is. It’s only through the reflection that we recognize ourselves. Your eyes have never seen your own face. You can only see yourself through a reflection in a mirror or through another’s eyes. You can’t stare at the sun; otherwise you will burn your eyes and go blind. You have to look at the moon, the reflected light of the sun. In this way, in order to see itself, the one universal energy (Shiva) creates a reflection of itself as you. It’s only through the limit that we come to recognize the unlimited. It takes the mortal to experience the immortal.
During this session at Esalen, I taught a playful practice including partner yoga poses. We were outside in nature surrounded by the beautifully sculpted vegetable gardens, among the butterflies flying around our heads, and the whales off in the distance. The rhythmic song of the ocean waves accompanied all of this. At one point I looked around at the students and saw how focused and “at play” they were in their yoga. It was so beautiful, I smiled with delight that for this moment I was in the pure experience of divine play, lila. I was overwhelmed with joy.
The next day I took the red-eye out of San Jose and arrived home the next day around noon. I didn’t know how exhausted I was until I arrived home. But I made myself stay up until nighttime to go to bed in order to align with the 3-hour time change. But when I awoke in the morning I was physically exhausted. I so much wanted to have the high energy I had during the Esalen week. But no way. I was beat. It took me several days to recover my energy. It wasn’t until I did a very slow and deliberate yoga practice followed by a hot Epsom salt bath did I begin to feel my energy refill. Then I finally had enough energy to attend a masters swim practice, and after the practice I felt totally refilled and renewed!
My trust in the power of rest, in the resiliency of the body, in the power of yoga to renew and restore has been strengthened. I learned that my body and my energy levels have limits and that when I honor my limits, I come back to balance stronger, more present, and ready to dive back into my life fully. By embracing my limit, I gained access to the unlimited part of my being. Ahh, the Tantric paradox!
May you take time this month to do some restorative yoga, to rest, and nurture yourself. Especially in the Northeast, February can be a kind of “dull, dreary, cabin fever” time of year. It’s okay to do less and listen more. It’s okay to sleep more. It’s okay to take care of yourself because if you don’t take care of you, who will? We have to do our part in co-participating with the divine. The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to set the sails. May you set your sails well and allow grace to refill your well.