Cooking in the Chaos, and Finding Clarity

by Barrie Risman 

If you follow me on Facebook, you know my house has been turned upside-down the last few weeks, as we undergo basement renovations. The guys are doing a great job and the result will be fantastic (yoga room with cork floor and rope wall, finally!). But…in the meantime it is complete chaos at home.

Being at home with a sniffly child added to the unpredictability of life this week. My days required a bit more surrender on my part than I was willing to offer up at first. After a while of spinning around with no clear direction, I sat down and took a breath. It came to me that I could let go into this reality rather than fight against it. I went into the kitchen and made a soup. Chopping, simmering, stirring and even washing the dishes added a sense of normalcy to an otherwise tumultuous afternoon. The focus was grounding, centering and clarifying.

Fast forward to my level 1 class this week, where we worked on forward forward. Tackling the tightness of the hips, hamstrings and the inflexibility of the lower back in these poses might feel like a similar kind of “chaos” to many beginner students. “Stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel, inhale, lift your chest, exhale fold forward from the hips”.  Immediately the restriction in the legs, hips and back kicks in. It feels overwhelming, and certainly unclear. Where to start?

Clarity starts with becoming present. We begin to unravel the chaos by just being aware of it. This awareness includes physical sensations and also emotional reactions we might have to a particular sensation, instruction or movement. In this way we start to identify where we are at physically and mentally. With that awareness we can can start to work toward clarity by choosing one action to focus on. In my example above, it was making a soup. In the case of Uttanasana, it might be maintaining the length of the spine as you forward fold at the hip creases. Focusing on one thing and staying with it for a while we create clarity amidst the chaos. And this focus keeps us grounded and able to stay engaged with the practice, and hopefully ride the waves of our lives with greater ease as well.

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