Words: Paula Pliakas // Image: Jill Futter
Teacher Paula Pliakas loves the warm months and hates the cold--so much so, that she sometimes has to work to get herself through the coldest dregs of spring (a lot of us probably do, too). She shares her thoughts on how she warms up to that most stubborn of beasts: a chilly, damp transition that won't quite wam up, already.
“If the root of a tree is weak, the tree itself cannot be strong.” -The Tree of Yoga, BKS Iyengar
As we forge ahead into spring, I often need to remind myself of this quote. Though the concept is very self-explanatory, there are many days in which the cold months hang heavily upon us like a wet wool blanket. Even sleeping soundly under the covers at night, I still can’t help but feel a sense of unease, almost like I myself, am a bit off balance. I end up focusing on the anticipation of warmer weather, the eagerness to step out into the warm sun and feel its glow on my skin. My own impatience leads me to lay awake at night, daydreaming about the day I can shed my coat, hat and scarf….and finally feel human again. Then just as I seem to have drifted off to sleep, I awaken harshly to the sound of my alarm, and another cold grey morning greets me like an unwanted house guest. Stepping out of bed feels painful in my bones and muscles, like a cruel shock to my system. The wood floor feels rougher than usual on my sore and tired feet, even though they have been sleeping, attached to my ankles, and not off on their own journey during the night. The only thing I can think of is the nap I will be taking later that afternoon, and I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet.
So, how do we get through this spring transitional period? After allowing myself to feel my own discontent, I’m again reminded of yet another quote from BKS Iyengar's The Tree of Yoga:
“Focusing on one point is concentration. Focusing on all points at the same time is meditation.”
While brushing my teeth on icky, cold, damp spring mornings, I remember that if I only focus on the things that make me feel unbalanced, then that is where all of my energy is going, leaving me zapped before the day has even begun. But, if I can acknowledge that I feel unbalanced and remember what to do to feel grounded, then I will be in a much better place to start my day. I make a good effort to view washing up on a cold morning as less of a chore and more of an awakening, moving meditation. The sound of the water on skin, the soap and sponge, the awareness that one is taking care of the self with a thoughtful tenderness is a sweet concept. Running water also helps to allow thoughts to just flow through, unimpeded, before the day begins.
Feeling physically grounded can become a meditative process, too. To start, I reach for my computer and check the day's yoga class schedules. I know for a fact that taking class is not just great physical exercise--it helps to reinforce that sense of foundation that we so often lose when we are in transition. It also helps to ease those aches and pains, along with the shrinking in, that the body experiences during the winter months.
I then do a quick clean of my kitchen and bathroom before walking my dogs. Both cleaning (especially spring cleaning, at this time of year) and taking a walk are a great ways to re-ground yourself. It helps to give a renewed sense of balance and order. Just the simple act of using your feet to move forward on a simple walk can allow you to feel reconnected to the earth, to have time with yourself and even your furry friends. They, too, feel cooped up by this time of year. Regaining the awareness that even in this seasonal transition, the earth supports us at all times, is comforting, as it is much like the support it gives to the roots of a tree, even in the dead of winter.
If we are aware of our own needs and can acknowledge what is, then we can also acknowledge what isn’t and find new ways to feel refreshed instead of unsteady during this transitional period. Having the ability to actively balance ourselves in our own lives, both on and off the mat, can quiet the impatient mind---the one that wants something we perceive as better and, instead, find the peace and beauty in what’s already there.
ABOUT PAULA PLIAKAS
As a former athlete with a handful of injuries, Paula almost became a personal trainer. After a while, something didn’t feel quite right. The gym felt soulless--she needed something more. That’s when yoga became a part of her daily life. Having just completed her 500-hour teacher training, Paula is excited to share her newfound knowledge of the practice, which has inspired a new creativity in her classes around New York City. Her love of music still stands, but is now accompanied by her interest in alignment, chanting and yogic philosophy. She continues to teach as much as possible and especially enjoys her work with a group of women who were once involved in trafficking, but who now live in a safehouse. For Paula, what yoga does for these women can't quite be put into words, but, like yoga, is beautiful and fulfilling.