While in a recent restorative yoga class with the wonderful Tami Hackbarth I realized something: restorative yoga is kind of like boot camp training for my brain to help prepare me to successfully spend time with my family (or to do other potentially temper tantrum-inducing activities).
Whhhhat? Restorative yoga … boot camp … has she lost her marbles? Well, kind of.
See, during a restorative yoga class, the room is peaceful and quiet. The lights are dim and there is no stimulation from iPhones, televisions, computers, and the like. Your body becomes calm, relaxed, soft. The teacher speaks in slow soothing tones. A certain spaciousness begins to open up, unlike anything we experience during the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day existence …
And then, while swaddled in the sanctity of all of that restorative energy, if you’re anything like me, your mind may proceed to go ape shit. In fact, it’s actually quite common for people to experience the volume of their thoughts increasing, as the pace of their movement begins to decrease. So, if you are like me, you’re not alone. (Check out a great restorative yoga primer here for more details.)
Shortly after class begins, you may realize that restorative yoga is not at all what you thought it would be (or not at all what it was like the last time you came) and, as your inner gremlins start coming out of the woodwork, you’ll be faced with a choice: run away or stick it out.
Friends, I suggest you consider trying to stick it out. You might be wondering why I am making this seemingly unusual suggestion to keep doing something you are not exactly enjoying. Well, here’s what came to mind for me as I stuck it out:
- I got to practice sitting with “the crazy” in a safe and supported setting. I was present, focused on my breath, and just noticing that the gremlins were doing their thing.
- I realized that I actually did have the ability to choose to calmly stick it out, without throwing a temper tantrum, without running out of the room.
- Although class wasn’t necessarily fun, it was tolerable and afterwards I felt noticeably better, calmer, and my thoughts felt more spacious.
But what does this have to do with family time?
Well, for me (and maybe for you), spending time with family has a tendency to bring out my inner teenager … the one who acts impulsively, says things to her family that she would never say to her friends or colleagues, rolls her eyes, gets embarrassed by everything her parents do/don’t do, and when things really devolve, throws a temper tantrum and runs out of the room. It’s very habitual and it’s not pretty.
But as my gremlins were doing their thing on Sunday during the restorative yoga class, I realized something important: I can train my brain to respond differently.
Even during a stressful situation, I can choose to focus on my breath, notice my thoughts, and stay present. I can choose to stay in the room and I can choose to remain calm. And I suspect that if I continue practicing those qualities in a supported setting — like during a restorative yoga class — that practice might eventually translate to more successful family visits in the future. Stay tuned … I’ll let you know how it goes.