by Chelsea Doohan
The other day, I was trying to get ready to teach class at 5:30 PM. I was struggling. It had been a full day, and I was dragging. I felt like I had no energy, and what’s worse, no inspiration or enthusiasm.
You probably know how it feels not to have energy when you need to do something. It feels bad.
What feels even worse is getting down on yourself for not having energy when you think you should. I was on my way into that particular downward spiral when a brief encounter with a friend saved me. . . .
I’m glad she happened to be there, because she said something that helped me. I was commenting on what a hard time I have teaching in the late afternoon, and she pointed out that summertime is a different matter, but in the middle of winter,
“We’re supposed to be hibernating.”
She is right! Our species spent ages responding to important events like sunset and day length and adjusting energy output accordingly.
It is a recent development that we began ignoring such things and organizing our lives around clocks and calendars (or phones and computers).
Other animals don’t attempt to maintain the same schedules from one season to another, but we do.
Last summer, when I started teaching this 5:30 class, it was not only broad daylight when we began, but also when we finished at 7 PM!
That is a far cry from starting at 5:30 in winter, right around when the sun is setting. That would be equivalent to starting around 9 PM in the summer, which sounds like an unlikely time to start a yoga class.
It’s all a matter of how you measure. If numerical time is the metric, 5:30 sounds perfectly reasonable. But measured by the sun, it’s a completely different story.
Whether we like it or not, our bodies measure by the sun, so if we are going by something different, we’re bound to have body-mind trouble.
My friend’s comment shifted my attention to the sun and to my body instead of an idea of numerical time, and that opened up a lot more space for me to feel what I was feeling. I realized that what I was feeling was okay.
This is only one example of how different our daily lives can be when seasons change. Do you experience similar struggles when the sun goes down?
Do you find yourself craving different foods? Do you feel that you get less done this time of year? Do you just plain old need more sleep?
Most important, do you get down on yourself for any of these things?
What I really wanted to write about in this newsletter was compassion for self. So here it is; this is where yoga comes in! This is the time to practice!
Here are some pointers for practicing self-compassion when things seem to be set up to make you suffer:
Acknowledge when you are struggling. It’s the first step to having more kindness for one’s self. It isn’t always easy to say “I struggle with this,” but I recommend doing it as a practice of satya, or truthfulness. Just say what’s true and see what happens.
Show up as you are. There are those times when you are tired and don’t feel ready to do what needs done, but you still have to do it. Striving for energy that’s not there only feeds the depletion. On the other hand, there is a truthful quality to acting with respect for one’s current capacity.
How would it feel to go ahead with what you need to do, but not to reach for more energy than you actually have, just show up with what you’ve got?
Remember that it’s not forever. The cyclical nature of sun and seasons means that nothing stays the same for long. In the darkest days, we are already well on our way towards more light and longer days.
That’s where we are now, at the beginning of February. Spring is coming. I’m leaving the 5:30 class at that time because I know that it’s not forever, and I can do it for these weeks until it gets easier again. Also because it would be a big pain in the neck to change it and then change it again and again for every season. It’s not ideal, but it’s a descent compromise. And when it really comes down to it, self compassion is the thing that’s really going to get me through.