Finding Roots

I have this thing that I do when I am in tough poses, and, as I have come to realize, I do it off the mat as well.

I clench.

Mostly my jaw, but also my leg muscles, my abdomen, my shoulders and neck, and my hands. So, I think that covers almost everything.

Over the last few weeks, I felt like I was on to something by putting my tongue in between my lips, particularly when I was doing abs, to make me cognizant of this tendency.

Then last week I bit my tongue. Fail.

If the last few years of my life have taught me anything, it is that I can't grip so tightly to what I think the future has to look like OR what someone else thinks it should be. I would have missed out on a million wonderful things. Yet, at the same time, there is an almost opposite, undeniable want to be grounded. And a sense that if I am going to be blooming where I am planted - I really need some sort of a root system.

I joined a friend last weekend for a walking group that she does around the city. It was a beautiful day, lovely company, and great fun. When I casually asked how long the group had been together - all of the ladies answered that it had, in fact, been 10 years. For a decade, they had walked the streets of San Francisco and the East Bay, and Big Sur, and any number of other places. I was pretty awed by those kind of roots.  

I just recently passed the one year mark of living permanently here in San Francisco. I love this city. I have been literally moved to tears just looking at the skyline off the bridge on a clear night. It makes me happy. I love the weather, the people, the beautiful places, the opportunity, and the yoga. And perhaps, in the back of my mind, there is a small fear that something will call us away. That I will have to leave. And start over. Again. I wouldn't describe myself as a deeply rooted plant. I feel like I have been in constant motion since 2004. Moving, transitioning, transplanting, living on two continents, living on two coasts, traveling.

This almost nomadic quality has made for a rich life with very few regrets. And I want to be clear - this life is the life that we chose. But like every choice, this type of constant motion has consequences: I am far from extended family, I work long hours, and my life moves at a fast pace. There is not a lot of slowing down.

It is what brought me to yoga.

It is what brings me back - time and time again. 

Every pose, every movement, every stretch - when I am mindful about it - is a practice in letting go. In being okay without gripping. 

So when Kiki tells me to release my jaw, or Pete gently tells me to stop leading with my neck - I usually smile or laugh. It is as if I am wearing a sign that says "Help me. I grip. Hard."

Sometimes my practice frustrates me, when I feel that I am getting nowhere, when I can't find any sense of release, when my body feels more like steel than clay.

And there are other times when I find  peace that is hard to even describe.

It is not happiness, it is not bliss. It is a confident acceptance of the present.

And it was truly with that sense of calm, not the gripping, that I leaned over to my husband this past week as we were walking together and said, essentially out of nowhere:

I really want to stay here.

There is a difference between gripping, and finding the right kind of soil to grow in.

Releasing the grip, in order to bloom.