Teaching a puppy to do savasana
I’ve heard that when you enter motherhood, your yoga practice metamorphosizes. I can confirm that when I became a puppy mother a few months ago, my sleep schedule, my daily activities, my mental state, and my personal yoga practice alike changed dramatically. I didn’t have nine months to gradually feel the fault lines around my life begin to quiver. Instead, Blue entered my life with tsunami-like force. Over the course of a weekend, my puppy quickly shape-shifted from being an idea in my head to become a living, breathing, panting being sitting in a doggie-sized duffle bag in El Paso’s airport.
To say I was underprepared for puppy motherhood is an understatement. I had become accustomed to a free-spirited lifestyle. Still in the “hustle” phase of my yoga teaching career, I would willingly and happily commit myself to odd teaching gigs all around the city at all hours. Each morning, I would fill my backpack with snacks for the day and stay out teaching, working in coffee shops, and taking classes until 9 pm. I could leave for a weekend in New York or even for a month-long trip to Paris with little significant negotiation required. My liberated lifestyle was equally as important to me as the oat milk lattes that fueled my work – or so I learned the moment that Blue became a member of the family.
As the partner with the more flexible schedule, I realized as Daniel and I boarded the plane back to Boston that I would suddenly became the stay-at-home-mother who would tend to Blue’s many needs. At her terrible two months of age, Blue could be left alone up to two-hour segments at a time. Thus, each class on my schedule for the coming week had to be negotiated. Each latte would have to be planned ahead and ordered to go. My spirit sank at the thought of being tethered to a single location. I was already going stir crazy in my aisle-side seat on the plane. Was dependence what I signed up for in my whim to take home a puppy?
In the era of house arrest and sleep deprivation when Blue was brand new, I knew that the one thing that could make me feel at home in my body was movement. Yet I quickly found out that keeping a consistent home yoga practice was going to be challenge. In Blue’s first week at our apartment, I would bring her into my make-shift yoga room – a closet-sized space that our broker hinted enthusiastically would make a perfect nursery – where I would test Blue’s reaction to my practice.
Blue was beaming with excitement the first time I lifted into a downward dog. As soon as my head lowered to her eye level, she ran through my legs and lick my face. Sun salutations became a losing battle. I would throw tennis balls into the bedroom and wag her rope toy in her face, but no effort at distraction was sufficient to thwart Blue’s curiosity about my movement. With equal parts adoration and frustration, I would alternate between locking Blue away in the kitchen and letting her back in to bite my feet when she cried. Eventually, I would look to my watch and note with amazement that thirty minutes had passed but not a single posture had been created on my mat. At least, none of the traditional yoga postures were present in my practice, but there was plenty of shapes I could call “Dog Eating a Downward Dog” or “Puppy Chewing a Yoga Mat.”
Often, I could wear Blue down to the point of a puppy nap. After enough play, she loved to outstretch herself in the center of my mat and fall into a luxurious sleep. Eager to have a beautiful few moments of freedom, I didn’t dare disturb her. Instead, I would quietly squeeze my 5 minutes of practice into the millimeter of space between the edge of my yoga mat and the door – and it would feel divinely satisfying.
Could I trust Blue to nap long enough for an extra 5 minutes of blissful rest in savasana? Sometimes she would stay sweetly napping while I lay on cloud nine. Other days, Blue would shock me shortly into savasana with a stream of puppy kisses to my cheeks and playful nibbles at my hair.
My momentary annoyance would melt into love when I’d peer out of one eye to see her wet snout sniffing my ears as if she had found lost treasure. In these instances, it would be crystal clear that I would be substituting savasana today for a few moments of meditation on the melody of emotions of owning a puppy.
Flooded with feelings of love for this rebellious creature, I would remind myself that perhaps my yoga practice doesn’t need to take on the appearance of arbitrarily-named shapes. Instead, it can serve as a celebration of the invaluable, ineluctable life in front of me.