SLOW IT DOWN…
by Janna Leyde
This one lyric from this one song has been playing on repeat in my head for a few weeks now. I like music. I like The Lumineers. It’s a good song, it has very little to do with my life as it is right now.
Yet, the one line—slow it down—keeps surfacing. It pops up when I’m writing, walking, running to airport gates, down subway steps, crouched down in my newly discovered ‘optional Childs’ Pose. But slowing it down is for other people, like my dad who needs to slow down to give himself time to sort out the challenges of brain injury or my mom who is too tired from his brain injury and should slow down and relax.
It’s not for me. I’m not tired, yet. I don’t have a brain injury. The summer didn’t wear me out. I have shit to do. I’m young, not married and living in New York City—the trifecta that lends itself to warp speed accomplishment.
The other day my dad asked me over the phone what I’ve done that day. He always asks this, so I rattle off one accomplishment after another, as if they were proof of my existence—wrote this, taught this class, traveled here, bought this, met up with this friend, called that person… and the list goes on.
“Why do you do all that in one day?” he asked.
I laughed, clearly avoiding a real answer, because I didn’t have one. I told him I needed to call my grandmother.
“I’ll send you some of my leftover hours in the mail,” my grandmother said as we were saying goodbye. “I have way too many for one day for one old lady, and you sound like you need my hours more than I do.”
I told her that I would gladly take them, and that I’ve got to go, because inevitably it’s on to the next thing. She told me to quit hurrying and to enjoy my youth.
If the humans in my life can’t put me in check, my yoga practice will.
If you know me, you how jazzed I am when I know an arm balance is coming so, when the teacher started in on her deliberate cuing for a variation of Side Crow, I Eagled up and crouched down. I spread my palms wide and let them float down to the mat from the twist. I was prepped with Chaturanga arms. Then she asked us to extend our leg long, line up the IT band on the shelf of one arm, and my mind started freaking: I know this pose. I want to be in it already and this garudasana version is taking too long. It’s too hard.
It hits me like a brick. I am so eager to get into the pose that I’ve spent an entire summer using the cheat. (Yes, the cheat where not one, but two, hips rest on not one, but two, arms. My whole summer of racing from start to finish that I wasn’t even aware that the cheat had slipped into my practice.
Slow it down.
There it was again, that one lyric forcing itself over the sound of the Sanskrit chant on stereo and into my sweaty yoga class.
I listened. I breathed all the prana I could muster into my abdominals, which have to work a lot harder to keep that hip up, away from the cheat. I stretched one leg up and one leg out. Something was different. I felt a lift, a lightness that kept my chin inches up from the mat and left some space around my heart. There was no familiar rush to immediately swing back through Chaturanga and collapse out of it. I felt time and ease and flight.
There is something to be said for pacing yourself. It leaves you room to breathe, to enjoy things. Why are we racing to our ambitions? There is no race.
Slow it down.
Just listen to The Lumineers, at least that one lyric from that one song.
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.