I was tired last week. So tired that my arms and legs actually felt heavy as I walked around. The simplest tasks seemed daunting enough that I put them off for another day. Getting out of bed (which is rarely an issue for me) took an astounding amount of will power. Even my favorite way to waste time, playing word games on my phone, was suffering. I just wasn’t as quick or as creative as usual when I played.
I began to question my health. Was I coming down with a cold? Or was I developing allergies? I began to question my yoga practice. Was I doing too much? Did I need to back off? I went to bed earlier, set my alarm thirty minutes later. I watched what I ate. I watched how much water I was drinking. And, still, I was so very tired.
Then my husband, who’d been travelling all week, mentioned that he, too, had been oddly tired. The coincidence caught my attention. Hmmm.
Maybe we weren’t actually as physically tired as we felt. Maybe we were dealing with the aftermath of the insane burst of energy it had taken to get our son packed and ready for college. (My mom calls this phenomenon “let down.”) Maybe what we thought we were feeling in our bodies was coming from our hearts – which were a little confused and a lot saddened by our new family arrangement with one child living away from home. Maybe, just maybe, my body was responding to something deep within.
The more I thought about it, the more this made sense. After all, I know from countless hours on my yoga mat that there is absolutely no way to separate body, mind and heart.
We begin to develop an understanding of the elaborate interconnections within us as we work with our bodies in yoga postures. Some sleuthing reveals that a sore wrist in backbends is actually coming from tightness in that shoulder. We notice that the pain we’ve been feeling in our knee is relieved on days that we work on hip openers in class. As we engage the muscles in our thighs to reach our toes an inch closer to the ceiling in boat pose, we are surprised to notice that the muscles deep in our low belly respond by engaging powerfully.
In other words, if we’re really paying attention as we practice, we can learn what we’ve known all along but maybe haven’t truly understood. The knee bone is actually connected to the leg bone! And to everything else in the body. There’s simply no way around it. Discomfort or imbalance in one part of the body will absolutely affect the rest of the body. Sometimes these effects are subtle. Sometimes they are quite dramatic. There is no way to isolate a single muscle or bone. Our body is the sum of its parts.
With more practice, we begin to sense a deeper level of interconnectedness. No matter how hard we try, a frazzled day at work will echo into our practice. We may have to work a little harder to focus on each breath. Or we may notice that our mind is wandering more wildly than it usually does. Mental exhaustion often masquerades as physical fatigue on the mat. Emotional upheaval – positive or negative – will show up as well. A sad day might leave us craving the quiet, soothing energy of forward folds. A happy moment might have us floating lightly on our mat. Stress and worry can leave us as out of balance – literally falling over – on our mat as they do off.
In short, like our bodies, we are a sum of our parts. Our “self” is made up of body, mind and feelings. Each affects the other two. Each affects the whole. Sometimes dramatically. Sometimes subtly. But there is always a ripple effect. A sore elbow can make us cranky. Feeling physically strong can bolster our courage as we confront a co-worker. Allergies can make our minds feel fuzzy. Nervousness makes our stomach hurt. Wonder takes our breath away. Elation can leave us literally leaping for joy.
And, as my husband and I discovered, sadness can make us awfully, terribly, completely tired. While time is the surest way to help us get used to our new “normal,” we can work with the other aspects of ourselves to feel better. Taking care of our bodies – continuing to exercise, practice yoga, get enough sleep and eat well – can make us feel perkier. Taking care of our minds – planning fun activities, getting lost in a good book, tackling a project around the house – can draw our attention from our hurting hearts to whatever we’re doing.
Little by little, I’m happy to report that, while being a four-person household still feels strange, we have begun to feel more like our old selves – body, mind and heart.
Take a minute and ask yourself if part of you needs a little extra care right now … like us, you may be surprised.