Merry Christmas | Reflections on Solitude, Gratitude, Loss, and Yoga

Merry Christmas | Reflections on Solitude, Gratitude, Loss, and Yoga

Isn’t there something very… odd… about Christmas Day? Following weeks of frenzy and furiously frantic days, there is a sudden stillness in the city, which provides such a sharp contrast to the bustle and hustle that surrounded so many of us. By the way, Merry Christmas, friends….

I began my Christmas holiday with nibbling on my friend’s too tempting breakfast buffet she created for her Christmas Eve brunch. I had to pass up on the yummy looking homemade cinnamon rolls and the saliva producing sausages so I wouldn’t find myself puking later on during John Salisbury‘s advanced vinyasa class.

We were mat on mat with each other, there were so many yogis in that studio. Unremarkably,  the closeness provided me with some, um, interesting sensory experiences. I have no idea why, but the dude next to me smelled like onions! It could just be a psychosomatic mania going on in my head — and I was truly fearful that I might have been the onion offender… then I realized I haven’t eaten any onions because I hate onions. So I had 80 minutes of hot, sweaty, onions.

John’s technique is distinct and fulfillimg… and he has an uncanny knack of finding the poses that I hate the most and then forcing me to find success in the poses. Case in point, ardha chandrasana, or, half-moon. I hate half-moon. I will commit to half-moon once a month, and that is during the half-moon phase of the lunar cycle. I figure that’s the best I can do, and I just really don’t fancy that posture. This is one, for sure, where I get all in my head – generally start thinking of a string of curse words, and wobble. I thought for sure I’d bee off John’s hook because I was (literally) tucked like Baby in her corner. He squoze into the micro space between my mat and wall (I had less than four inches from the wall), wrapped his arms around my torso and extended thigh, urging me to relax into the posture, ultimately just pulling my body back into his own as he pulled me up and into the rotation.

Okay, so I thought for sure he wouldn’t make it all the way back to my corner for the left  side of our asanas. Oh, no…. my faithful guru pinned himself in that skinny space between me and the wall, urging me to push my hip back and although I was not talking and trying very hard to make sure he heard my ujayii breathing, I was thinking, “no, no, no, I don’t wanna, no, no, no.” Well, as I was thinking my response, I started wobbling — because I was all in my head, and John, literally, stepped on my left foot as he once again, wrapped his arms around me, and made sure, although I fought him the entire time, to give me success in the asana.

Later in practice, once we were working on our floor work, I was working into hanumanasana (monkey pose, or full splits) on the right side. I flirted with this pose all year long and have been regularly able to stretch into the full splits when supporting my weight by keeping both hands still on the ground. John suggested, if we were “feeling it,” to raise our right hands. I took a chance, lifted my right arm straight up into the air, and there was no wobble. He then encouraged us, if we were, “feeling it,” to raise our left hands, so I raised my left hand into the air, and BAM! Full, totally extended hanumanasana on my right side! Later in practice, with John’s encouraging and suggestions based on if we were “feeling it,” I rocked out hanumanasana in the full expression of the pose on both sides! Ye-yeah! Merry Christmas to me!

Inspired and desiring to feel even more intrepid, I decided a hike up Piestewa Peak would be a nice complement to the practice before I went to my friend’s family’s HUGE Christmas Eve affair — this party has run every year since 1982. I was promised an opportunity to put on a sweet dress and eat a Norwegian smorgasbord, complete with fruit soup, fish balls, and lefse.

Some Phoenix hikers were spreading their cheer, for near the top of what I lovingly think of as the stairmaster-from-hades, I saw a solo poinsettia pot. At the summit, a dainty creosote bush was decked in shimmer and glitter from the handiwork of someone who carried the ornaments up the trail to decorate the little shrub.

But, I couldn’t admire the whimsical treat for very long because I was due for a date with my hot-set rollers and a short, black, wool skirt with some very high heels… with my vintage fox fur stole purchased from an estate sale, which makes me feel like I’m wearing a furry snickerdoodle.

Above all, my reflections on that trail were of finding gratitude… this holiday season has been the roughest for me, by far, and I will consciously choose to find and be grateful for what I do have, even if I must mourn and lament what is lost and missing. Irrevocably gone in a cruel evidence of absence of a morally fair universe. The world is not fair, and we cannot always control what happens to us. Right now, it’s crucial for my well being to focus on what I have, otherwise the weight of my loss will bury me.

John’s foundation of yoga is rooted in ashtanga practice, and he integrates this into his vinyasa classes. We chanted “Om, Shanti.” Shanti means “peace.” As billions of people sing and pray for peace this holiday season, we brought peace to ourselves as we felt our own good vibrations from within….


I declared to friends that I want to explore the trends I see with my boyfriends (that’s a definite exploration I will jump into in 2011). There’s s definite pattern I have…. And hard looks in the mirror I need to make along with some self reflection.

Speaking of patterns…. “Did you ever notice that life seems to follow certain patterns? Like I noticed that every year around this time, I hear Christmas music.” ~Tom Sims

merry christmas

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