Stretching Past Normal

I gazed through my legs at the lawn, tree trunk and foliage of our across-the-street neighbors. Upside down, a green sky seemed normal. An inverted tree seemed normal. A drape of foliage like a feather duster hanging from a peg board seemed normal. I actually liked that green lush world filling the frame of our glass storm door. This upside-down normal soothed me.

What I didn’t like, however, was being so exposed. The front door was open because an HVAC technician was walking in and out to check our air conditioning. He was an awfully nice guy and said he meditated and practiced yoga. But still.

And with the front door open and my neighbors passing by on this beautiful day, my rump joined my garden as part of the possible view.

I started thinking about that, about my neighbors catching glimpses of me in Warrior or Forward Fold or Down Dog. That’s not how they know me out there on the street. That’s clearly not normal.

And then I found myself wondering: what if my neighbors saw me in Warrior, fierce and strong and focused? What if they saw me reverse my Warrior, to stretch my front arm over my head and back toward my rear leg, exposing my heart and my breast? What if they saw me wobbling in Half Moon — leg extended in the air behind me while I tried to maintain a straight line from crown to toe? Or if I decided, as our teacher reminded us, that perhaps this shape wasn’t right for me today? And what if my neighbors saw me decline to do one last Flow but instead to rest — and then, restored, to choose to flow again a few moments later?

What if fierce and strong, vulnerable and exposed, wobbling and content, resting and pushing were actually my Normal out on the street as well as on my mat?

Island of Iona, Scotland

Our HVAC visitor beckoned me out of a right-facing twist to talk about his findings: surge protectors, a new fuse box, that sort of thing. In my class, we were cooling down and I brought that Self to our conversation. When I finally returned to my mat, the class was emerging from Shavasana — the relaxation that knits together our practice and infuses our bones and breathing with its sensibilities. I hadn’t rested, and yet I still felt our practice shimmering inside me.

I usually think of Shavasana as a nap from which I leap up, offer Peace and then charge right back into my normal way of being. But today, I experienced an interruption in my yoga practice that required me to listen, trust and choose. Far from resenting the interruption, I found that the strength and openness and choosing of Warrior and Half Moon still clung to me. My conversation with our HVAC guy, oddly, had become part of my practice.

When I returned to Zoom and watched our teacher call us back, I thought of what the word Shavasana means in Sanskrit: corpse. We die at the end of our practice to cultivate in darkness the seed we’ve planted. And then we rise again to create a powerfully new Normal.

I never succeed in doing that. I never even thought of it that way until now.

I’m still in that powerfully new Normal as I write this. I think of the laundry, the chores, the expectations before me, charted by myself and others. Worse, I think of our public and private pain, disequilibrium and despair. My neighbors walking by glimpsed no part of me, but I glimpsed myself as a woman of strength, vulnerability, balance and poise.

What part of that can I retain as I rejoin a world that defines Normal so differently?


I wrote this piece for Five Minute Friday, a faith-based community site. Follow this link to see other short essays about “Normal.”  

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4 thoughts on “Stretching Past Normal

  1. Ryan, Anne M - (anneryan) May 18, 2020 — 11:38 am

    Love this post! Especially,

    “What if fierce and strong, vulnerable and exposed, wobbling and content, resting and pushing were actually my Normal out on the street as well as on my mat?”

    What if? Xoxox Anne

    Get Outlook for Android



    1. Hi, Anne. Thank you for highlighting that … prayer? I thought about those words today while I was in need of each of those things. What if??, as you said. Let’s try it together. Love, Carol Ann


  2. They all say the same things,
    ‘normal is as normal does’
    but when cancer’s clipped your wings,
    they won’t be the way they was,
    for though I’m not complaining
    (that’s such a vain approach),
    these tumours sure are draining,
    a sort of God-reproach
    to the pride I had in me,
    to the stamina and strength
    to the sports-ability
    that I thought would be at length,
    but now I see a sterner task;
    I need help, and I must ask.


    1. Dear Andrew — Thank you for your lovely poem-prayer. “I need help, and I must ask.” I’m not very good at that. Your words remind me to see that as a very important part of “normal.”


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