I’m on a yoga mat in my living room looking out through the windows to the street outside.
The tinny voice of a yoga instructor comes out of my laptop as I try and copy his movements. He is younger than me but has been doing yoga a lot longer. He is very flexible and make everything look easy.
“Just lean back and really open your heart centre.”
My body has a little silent shriek as I attempt this pose.
I struggle to “breathe into it”. I don’t feel like I can breathe very much at all.
And my heart centre certainly doesn’t feel open.
My mind is telling me that getting up early to do an online yoga class was a stupid idea. My mind says yoga isn’t going to make me thin and feeling like a failure because I can’t hold a pose is not helping with my mental health.
My body is telling me it feels old and tired. My body says that all this stretching and flexibility is beyond its capabilities and I must be crazy to think I can twist about like that.
My heart centre does not feel open.
My heart centre feels sad and overwhelmed.
One of the tips for getting through this lockdown has been to take care of others. Focus your attention outside of yourself, they say, check in with people, keep your connections alive and you will feel better.
I have been trying to do that but it is exhausting. Part of me wants to keep connecting with other people but the more I connect with others, the more people I have to worry about, and the more stress I am carrying in my mind and in my body.
So it’s not surprising my heart centre doesn’t feel open.
I’ve forced it open and kept it open and maybe for far too long. I may be approaching the time I need to keep it to myself. I may need a few days of opening my heart centre to myself and not sharing with others while I rebuild my resources and my strength.
And my enthusiasm for yoga and backbends.
It looks like another year will go by and my dream to walk the west Highland Way will again pass me by unachieved.
To console myself, I follow the West Highland Way Facebook group, where people are posting pictures from previous years’ walking. I look at the wide open spaces of Scottish countryside – mountains, moor, lochs, forests – and feel sadness and envy. And longing.
I know that walking the West Highland Way will be cold and tiring and – let’s face it – quite possibly wet, but right now, where my world is reduced to the streets around my home in east London, I dream of being somewhere with no buildings in site. No roads. Just nature and the open sky. It’s good to dream about being in the middle of Rannoch Moor right now.
I took an hour walk yesterday. It was good to get out of the house and have a little time to myself. I didn’t take the usual walk around the small local park. Despite the cheerful swathes of flowering daffodils, I actually find the park quite depressing. It’s very small, so you end up walking around and around and that just reminds me of how small my world is now. Joggers run past me. Dog walkers stand together but at a safe distance. And every park bench has some kind of litter on it, even if there is a bin right beside it.
Instead of walking loops in the park I took a straight line along suburban streets. Thirty minutes out, thirty minutes back. I listened to a walking meditation podcast for the outward journey and tried to follow the instructions to “be the breath” and “feel connected to the earth.”
I’m not very good at meditation.
Mostly I was taking the time to look around and enjoy the blue sky sunshine morning, and checking out people’s front gardens, noting what kind of plants they had growing there. Noticing which streets looked a little more upmarket, which ones looked a little less well cared for. I don’t walk this way very often.
And every time I walked past a lavender bush I had to rub its leaves between my fingers and then smell the residue of scent it left. It’s something that I like to do whenever I pass a lavender bush.
There are a lot of lavender bushes down these streets.