Due to a recent relocation, I was without a yoga hammock for a couple of weeks. Although I don’t practice my asanas with a hammock every day, nevertheless I was eager to jump back in as soon as I was able to erect my portable (and temporary) hammock stand. It’s easy to become ungrounded when our normal routine is disrupted, and when our surroundings are no longer familiar. And so I was craving to re-establish my familiar mix of aerial yoga along with “floor” yoga, pranayama and meditation.
One thing about moving to a new location, is the newness of it all really makes one hyper aware of all differences, everywhere – from big things such as different weather patterns, or how the water tastes, to more subtle differences such as different sounds from the refrigerator, or the feel of different bedsheets.
So when I jumped into my hammock, the differences between my past, familiar setup and my current setup stood out dramatically. Despite the fact that I am used to traveling and finding myself in different hammocks and hammock setups, frequently.
The first thing I noticed was the squeeze from the hammock.
The First Hug
My Brooklyn apartment had a fairly high ceiling. And naturally, a hammock stand is much shorter. Even though, thanks to experience, I knew what to expect with a shorter ceiling height, I was still surprised by the strength of the squeeze.
One of the reasons why I prefer a single point hammock (shaped like a teardrop) to a 2 point hammock (shaped like the letter “U”) is because I enjoy how the hammock wraps around the body more with a single point hammock, how it squeezes the body. I use this squeezing quality a lot in my practice to massage warmed muscles, to help stretch fascia, and to remind me to expand the lungs fully when I breathe. Because the hammock’s squeeze in my new location feels much stronger, I discovered a new relationship to it. When entered into/exited from slowly, the hammock’s squeeze gave me a much needed, comforting hug. This relocation to a new city has been stressful and emotional; the hammock was encouraging me: everything will turn out okay; I will be able to re-imagine a life I love in this new place.
The second thing I noticed was how calming and restorative being upside-down felt.
Being upside-down is always an adventure. It feels amazing for the spine and playful for the mind. At the same time, though, the sensation of more fluid in the head can cause discomfort, and the digestive system can feel pressured, causing nausea to arise even for long-time, experienced practitioners such as myself. This time, there was zero discomfort; I wanted to stay upside-down much longer than usual.
Due to elongation of the torso, the digestive organs are spread out and snuggled more along the length of the spine. This is not a new concept to me, I frequently speak about the inward draw of the abdominal organs during inversions, and the phenomenon is included as a topic of discussion in the Unnata teacher training course. But this time, the sensation was not just something I noticed intellectually. It felt soothing, and I felt worries melting out of my mind. Could it be my “guts” needed a squeeze, or a hug, just as much as my skin, muscles, and chest did? This time, gravity was reminding me: even when your world has flipped upside-down, you will be alright. Calm down, rest, digest, and you’ll evolve into your best.
The Last Hug
After the inaugural aerial yoga class I gave myself in my new home, I decided to practice along to a video from an aerial yoga class I taught a couple of years ago, while back in Brooklyn. I specifically chose a class with things I would be hesitant to practice on a yoga stand such as swinging (have to be careful of the poles and also of tipping the stand over), and standing on the hammock (not enough space to fully stand up), to explore how to adapt things I used to do, to my new reality.
I noticed how despite the limitations of the new setup, I felt inspired and creative, not restricted.
There’s the old saying, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Intellectually, I know these things. Intellectually, I know that moving to a new city doesn’t equate to something melodramatic such as failure and/or death or another unwanted trauma, and could instead be seen as an exciting opportunity. But for some reason, the heart doesn’t always understand or agree with the intellect. Sometimes, my heart needs additional convincing.
What’s in a Hug
Life rarely works the way I would prefer it. And, I’m not unique in that regard. Most of us wish for a life filled only with happiness and triumph. And yet, sadness and tragedy does exist, and frequently we experience a mix of favored and unfavored events on any given day. To ignore either side of this dualistic coin is to deny oneself the experience of a full and complete life. Rather than ignore the sadness, fear and awkward discomfort I’m feeling over leaving Brooklyn, I’ll stay in the moment and notice it and also recognize and embrace the fun and interesting surprises my new city and my new home offer. Emotions are impermanent, and can dissolve and disappear if you let them.
Every hug eventually ends; the hugger lets go of the hugged, and the squeeze transitions into expansion. If the hug felt good, and the expansion also felt good, that’s when you know you’ve experienced love. I suppose despite its imperfections, I really loved Brooklyn and New York City. And, my aerial yoga hammock is reassuring me that I will love my adopted city and the next phase of life, too.