The first down dog of each day is the hardest, of course, and I always have to ease my way into it; shuffle my legs and hips; pedal my knees; really work my way into it. After a few seconds, I always hear my yoga instructor's words in my head: "Now, come to some stillness." It is my favorite thing to hear -- it sounds so simple. Just stop moving. But it's so, so hard.
Somewhere along my way I lost my ability to push the world's mute button and just chill out inside my own bones, which used to be my proudest accomplishment. Last week as I took some post-surgery painkillers and tried not to move, I ended up basically exclusively moving. Little spasms in my toes. An itch on my shoulderblade I couldn't resist. It was like how when someone says "Don't think of a tree," you start seeing leaves falling from the ceiling, roots forming under your floorboards; your eyelids morph into tree trunk silhouettes and, of course, you fail. There is an entire forest in your mind in precisely the place you've told it not to be.
I had surgery last week. When I was coming out of the anesthesia and it was time to get dressed, I didn't know where to begin. The task felt beyond my capabilities. The recovery room nurse pulled a curtain around me and someone unearthed my bag (and it is just now occurring to me that I don't know how that happened, it had been in a locker and I'd had the key and now here it is, two weeks later, and I don't know.) and K. helped me up and into my yoga pants and favorite, paint-stained American Apparel v-neck. Something about having people in a waiting room for you, only there to see you through it, is too tender, too much, that between that and my bodily trauma I started to cry, that kind of tremble that starts in your chin, below your lower lip. The kind you're just completely powerless to stop. I was just getting dressed. I was fine. I didn't need to cry. I didn't know why I was.
"Yoga breaths," K. told me. So I pictured my studio, the fuzzy lights, the way my heart balloons up in there, and I stepped into my shoes and cardigan and just breathed.
Later in the car on the way home (the driver having been instructed to take the turns slowly and my goodness, it felt like hours but true to his words, I barely felt a jostle), the tremble came on again. I watched B. out the car window, walking to the subway station after saying goodbye for the night, and I saw a flicker of sympathy on the driver's face (the things they must see!) and I lost it.
"I don't know why I'm crying," I'd wailed, somewhere so deep on the east side I could probably hear the river if I'd cared to. I really didn't. I was fine. But my bed felt so far away, so many avenues and tunnels away, and I'd made everyone wait for me in a hospital, and I don't like to ask things of people, and I felt so desperate.
So I tried some yoga breaths, some more, and I tried to find some stillness, and now here I am, almost two weeks later, with stitches and scars and dead flowers and three new pretty vases to keep.
And I haven't done a down dog since before.