Practically speaking – real life yoga

Jackson
Jackson the Shih Tzu

As some of you may know, I brought home a Shih Tzu puppy, named Jackson, last Friday afternoon. I’ve wanted a dog for as long as I can remember and have spent a great deal of time and effort getting my life sorted so that I could offer the pooch a good home.

I’ve spent time researching breeds, reading about how to care for a puppy, food, training, the full deal. You could say that I was incredibly well prepared if this had been an exam of how to do things. But knowing and doing are two totally different entities. And as prepared as I thought I was, the reality of the situation didn’t hit home until about 3am last Saturday morning.

Tears, tears and more tears

He cried, a lot. He cried at night and when he couldn’t see me. And I also cried, a lot too. I cried when I could see him and at night. I was convinced that this was a mistake and I didn’t have what it would take to look after him, to settle him and to get him to sleep through the night (toileting is a whole other issue!) But over the course of the week, and because of sleep deprivation this little ball of fluff has taught me a few things.

It’s life, but not as I know it

Up until last Friday I had diligently carved out a little routine of meditation and yoga, fitting in other exercise as and when I could. I thought I was doing fine, and getting the most out of my yoga experience, but a few nights with little to no sleep pushed me well beyond my comfort zone and keeping up with the physical aspects of my yoga practice have, temporarily, been put aside.

A kind friend pointed out to me that Jackson was picking up on my tattered emotional state and his behaviour was a mirror of my own feelings. I was creating the situation which was causing me such a large amount of distress and I was the only one who could begin to fix it. All the reading in the world had not prepared me for the reality of caring for a young puppy.

Shifting Perspectives

Sri K Pattabhi Jois, the founder/creator of the Ashtanga Yoga practice said, ‘Yoga is 99% practice and only 1% theory.’ I always understood how this related to my own mat time, but it was only this week when I began to realise that this advice applies to lots of other areas of life too – including raising a puppy.

I have all the theory, I understand what the books and websites and people say, but Jackson hasn’t read any of these and it was him I needed to understand and work with. This is where the practice part comes in. Watching his little behaviours and learning what they mean, teaching him that I will come back when he goes into his crate, and making time to play with him.

To do this I have used my knowledge of yoga and relaxation. I have some relaxing aromatherapy rollerballs which I use at bedtime to help calm us both. This is part of our routine. I use my knowledge of pranayama (breathing techniques) to slow my heart rate, calm my mind and release the feelings of panic that arise.

Progress not perfection

Savasana Image
Relaxation

Things are not perfect. I haven’t had a proper, restful sleep in over a week (and I need my sleep) but we are getting into a routine. I am applying what I know, but also adapting to things daily and making changes where necessary. My physical yoga practice has not been where it once was, but I’ll get back on track again, I have another priority now. And just as in my yoga journey, I am trying to celebrate the small steps along the way. Jackson has begun sitting at the back door when he needs out (not every time, but this saves me wandering around my garden in the rain trying to encourage him to go!) he still whines in his crate at night, but he’s not crying solidly for hours.

One step forward, two steps back

Yoga is a journey and my path has taken me into the life of this little dog. He is teaching me so much patience and forcing me to slow down. I am teaching things to him too. But it is a journey and we will have days/moments when things are going brilliantly, then we’ll backtrack a little. I think I’m ok with that, although more sleep would be nice too!