Do-what-you-can-with-what-you’ve-got sequence


One consequence of crossing time zones is jet lag, and I’ve been struggling with it for three weeks now (over there where I had just been, and now here). While on vacation, I was so busy soaking in the new sights and experiences that jet lag was an afterthought. Exhaustion finally caught up with me and I slept for almost 20 hours straight eight days into my trip. Still, I got up, hopped on the train and then walked my heart out with my nifty little point-and-shoot camera despite the yawns, drowsiness and occasional disorientation.

It is now that I’m feeling the full effects of jet lag. The body and mind have a way of acting like petulant children when they don’t get what they need, and, in this case, it’s a full night’s sleep. I wake up at odd hours and plop onto bed in midday, completely disrupting my circadian rhythm. I try to buck up and stay awake during the daytime to be tired enough at night but I still wake up at three in the morning angry, depressed and wanting to eat my dining table, or computer, or television set – anything I could lay my hands on – because the fruit I have stocked is not enough for my growling stomach.

What’s the natural thing for a yogini to do? Yoga, of course! And here came my handy Rodney Yee yoga DVD to the rescue. I figured going to the studio and plowing through strong sequences was not what I needed at this point and this DVD had always been my go-to on days that I couldn’t get out of the house for some reason. Well, what do you know? I ended up struggling through the Rodney Yee sequence, which I’d previously always done with ease! My body was that out of whack, and, frankly, so was my mind. I was having spectacular mood swings, and in order not to infect and affect people with them, I stayed indoors most of the time and isolated myself. Not the greatest of solutions, but stimuli of any kind aggravate my depressive moods, and in times like these, I prefer to be alone to ride out the mental storms.

Today, I woke up at 5:30 a.m., and had six hours of uninterrupted sleep, which meant the jet lag could be in its end stages. I was still feeling a sort of emotional heaviness, though, and my monkey-mind kept swinging from neuron to neuron, making it extremely difficult for me to meditate. In short, I couldn’t be still. So, without even thinking, I took out my mat again and listened to that little voice that kept saying “Do what you can with what you’ve got”. What I came up is this:

  • Three rounds of gentle Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation) – No exertion, no speed, just movement in sync with the breath; knees on the mat during Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-limbed Staff Pose) or low push-up.
  • Two rounds of gentle Surya Namaskara B – Again, gentle movements especially because my body was extra stiff. Focus was on alignment and breath, not speed.

I then went straight to a seated sequence, skipping the standing poses altogether. Overexertion could lead to frustration at this point and I was feeling good after the gentle sun salutations. I didn’t want to break the serenity.

  • Dandasana (Staff pose) for five deep breaths with emphasis on opening up the chest and lengthening the spine. I activated my thighs and core to support my back instead of relying on my arms and hands to straighten my torso.
  • Paschimottanasa (Seated-forward bend) for eight breaths. I needed to relax my brain and this was the best way to do it. I noticed how shallow my forward bend was and it was because, unlike in a normal vinyasa sequence where I was drenched in sweat and on fire from the balancing, warrior and arm balancing sequences that came before, my body was sort of lukewarm at this point. I thought “This is okay. I’m warm enough but not burning. Just what I need”.
  • Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-knee forward bend) for five breaths on each side. I continued with the forward bends because they relaxed me and allowed me to breathe into my brain. Also, I made no effort to place my head right on top of my knee or clasp my wrist with my hands, which was what I normally did. I merely reached for each foot and breathed.
  • Baddha Konasana (Bound angle pose) for five breaths because I needed a hip opener and wanted to continue with the forward bends.
  • Navasana (Boat pose) for three rounds, five breaths each round. I needed to strengthen my core both in my physical and energy bodies. It was important for me to include a core strengthener for its actual physical benefits, as well as its symbolism.
  •  I hugged my knees and softened my belly after Navasana. I laid back for what I thought was the most important pose of the day, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported bridge). A heart opener, it relieved me of the heaviness in my chest as I focused on expanding my rib cage. I felt the burn on my thighs as I decided to do three rounds with 10 breaths each round. Each time I lifted my hips up, I squeezed by glutes (okay, bum) which brought more flexion to my lower back and a deeper curve to my spine, allowing my chest to open up more. As I lifted my sternum up, I felt peace – that thing that has eluded me for weeks.
  • After that, I came into a supine twist for about a minute on each side to release my spine, savoring the openness that just occurred.

I learned today that doing what you can with what you’ve got has power beyond measure. Your vulnerability becomes your strength. It takes unbelievable humility and honesty to come to this place, especially if you’re so used to things being a certain way. By admitting that we are, at this very moment, weak, we become strong.


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