Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain

MY FIRST CHILD’S POSE

by Janna Leyde

Child's Pose - Steph Creaturo

The other day I was leading my students through this Down Dog knee-to-nose, knee-to-outer-arm, knee to opposite elbow sequence.

It’s the same sequence I’ve incorporated into my dad’s practice. My dad does not like it. He huffs and puffs through it. He turns red and begins to mix up his right from his left. It frustrates him, confuses him. It makes him want to quit the yoga stuff.

My dad’s therapist, Dr. P., has told me that taking breaks is crucial for people with brain injury. In fact, pushing him is too taxing on his brain—in any activity—and has the inverse effect. But I want to push my dad, because he spent my whole childhood pushing me. Throw harder. Think faster. Don’t be a wuss. Don’t give up. Keep going. Don’t stop.

“Dad, just take a break,” I’ll remind him. “You can always take Child’s Pose.”

And he takes it.

Looking around the studio, I could tell that my students were loving my knee-to-something sequence as much as my dad does. There was huffing and puffing. Legs were all out of sync.

“Hey, it’s summer,” I said. “It’s Tuesday. It’s hot. If this feels like it’s killing you, just take a break. Come to rest in Child’s Pose. If anything feels like a bit much in this whole class, you can always stop. Stopping is as much yoga as anything else is.”

Two students knelt down in Child’s Pose. I could feel their relief. The whole room could.

In that moment, I had to admit something to myself: I had been practicing yoga for over ten years—playing with different disciplines, taking a myriad of teachers in a myriad of studios, feeling out my dog on sand, on grass, on city streets—and I’ve never ever taken that optional, mid-asana Child’s Pose. I could always push through, plow through. Hell, some days it was dragging myself through a class, but if it wasn’t do or die, then keep going. Right? Do not stop.

A few hours later, I found myself sweating, border-line panting, through some pretty intermediate poses. My mind was reeling—drop your left hip; don’t hyperextend your left middle finger; you have to send that email to that woman by tonight; figure out if your story is due today or tomorrow; how many days left—48 or 49; Why is he not calling?

“And if you need a break from all this…” I heard my teacher say. “It’s summer. It’s hot. Just take Child’s Pose.”

I peeked around the room. No one was taking it. Not one student. How could I give this up now? You don’t take child’s pose. Why do you need a break? You can pull through this. You’re not that tired. Don’t stop. Reeling, again.

But it was summer. I was hot. I was tired. I had to stop. Stop the poses. Stop the ambition. Stop the emails, the errands, reminders, the analyzing, the accomplishing. I closed my eyes. I inhaled, and let my knees hit the mat, wide, really wide. I stopped using all of my muscles and melted into the floor. As the room charged on, the words of Dr. P. played over in my mind.

“When your dad needs a break, he needs a break. You can work on him with things after he’s had a good break. It will go much better. Sometimes everybody needs a break. Even sometimes you.”

Dr. P. is always right. I needed a good break—from asana, from networking, from relationships, from thinking.

I needed to take Child’s Pose.

Janna Leyde is a yogi and writer living in Brooklyn. When she’s not on her mat or at the front of the room teaching, she is working on publishing her first novel, He Never Liked Cake, a coming of age memoir that tells the story of growing up with her father’s traumatic brain injury. Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain offers her perspective on the practice through the lens of the complex human brain.

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