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Emails to my Therapist

My Yoga Sabbath Problem



Dear Nicholas, I’m taking a relaxing break from supposedly relaxing yoga and from my recent experiment in observing the Sabbath as a day of rest. My yoga Sabbath problem is that I’m finding both stressful.

My Sabbath experiment is only a few months old and the third Sunday was wonderful. With no work of any sort, the day felt timeless and infinite. That hasn’t happened again. Instead, Sunday has loomed as a day I don’t allow myself to do things I want to do. And Saturday feels like a deadline for getting things done.


Importantly, I’ve neglected to do any special practices to consecrate the time, “to keep it holy.” That has no doubt made a difference.

religious ritual

Rolling Out The Mat

Yoga I came back to this past fall, after an absence of years. The first three weeks were arduous and humbling. I discovered how much strength, flexibility, and balance I’d lost.  Physically, the experience was about even with a moderately unpleasant medical procedure.

The fourth week, I began to feel stronger. I started to remember what I once knew.

But still I dreaded going to classes. I also found myself trying to see how long I could last in a class without checking the clock.

I tried three different teachers. Maybe I need to try a few more.  I used to really like yoga.

Outsider Yoga Art

Years ago, for reasons that were never clear, I beaded the word “yoga” onto a bit of purple satin and put it into a frame. I just now located this lost work of art on a bookshelf, behind a row of books. (Why did I make such a thing?)

I think I would like to like yoga again. But so far, it doesn’t feel like a good strategy for easing stress and promoting well-being.

As I write this, it’s the Fourth of July, Independence Day. A couple of weeks ago, I finished a long revision of a novel, and I got a new literary agent two days ago. I’m celebrating all these things with alternating bouts of work and indolence, scheduling based on my whim. So far my whims have not included yoga or a Sabbath observance.

My Yoga Sabbath Problem

Some of my favorite lines of poetry come from Wallace Stevens’ “Sunday Morning.”

…late / Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, /And the green freedom of a cockatoo
The day is like wide water, without sound, /Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet/ Over the seas, to silent Palestine….

Rereading those lines rouses again a flicker of desire for a slow Sunday, a day “stilled.”

I love the idea of both yoga and slow Sundays, but both try my patience. This is my yoga Sabbath problem.

Can such practices be useful–can they reduce stress and produce calm–when performed grudgingly, even resentfully? I don’t think so, but I also think there’s a good chance I’m wrong.

Just wondering,





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  • Kenju
    July 5, 2018 at 1:42 pm Reply

    And I’m wondering if you’d be more patient with yoga, you’d start to like it again.

    • Peggy Payne
      July 5, 2018 at 2:58 pm Reply

      My husband is also saying this, Kenju. But I started into it last fall. Gee whiz, how long…..? I expect I’ll give it another go. Thanks for your encouragement.

  • Robert Braxton
    July 5, 2018 at 2:20 pm Reply

    Could I send you a book “God, Improv and the Art of Living” ?

    • Peggy Payne
      July 5, 2018 at 2:57 pm Reply

      Sure, Bob, or I can get hold of it now that I know about it. I just had a look and it seems really good and useful–and brand-new. Glad you knew about it and let me know. Thanks.

  • July 5, 2018 at 2:43 pm Reply

    I love this blog! Thought provoking! Specifically I totally get this thing Of how elusive that 3rd Sabbath experience is. So hard to duplicate. It’s like addicts that waste a lifetime trying to reproduce some combo of drugs and alcohol that lifted them to heaven’s gate back in 1980. Serentiy pursued seems reluctant to show up. And yet, as you say , doing nothing doesn’t get you there either. In my experience I have to keep discovering new ways in. It’s like this thing I seek wants to be wooed with something fresh. A gift of the heart, excited by being just discovered.

    • Peggy Payne
      July 5, 2018 at 2:47 pm Reply

      Fascinating comparison with the addict’s search for heaven’s gate, Randee. Also, the idea of the serene state wanting to be wooed with something fresh. Must come up with some new gift of the heart to offer. I’ll “work” on that.

  • July 5, 2018 at 2:50 pm Reply

    You provide such an interesting perspective. I have given yoga a break and I do feel the loss as far as the structure and consistency. It was definitely a great way to build strength and balance……and yet… I found myself becoming increasingly impatient with the whole thing; somewhat annoyed that I mostly didn’t feel centered and calm and deeply moved. And the hour sessions were long! I finally started wearing a watch because it helped me deal with the timing of it better — felt a little disturbing to not know how much time remained in the session. I wanted to feel more enlightened instead of slightly skeptical about the presentation – some things seemed just made up and I had to ask how is it possible to breathe into my thigh or some equally impossible task. I still do some yoga on my own as part of daily exercise; because I think it has value but it got to be an expense I couldn’t justify . “I will help you reach spiritual, ethereal heights and you can pay me by the month.” Our yoga instructor taught me a lot and of course she deserved to get paid but there was an unnecessary pretense of being above all the economic realities.

    • Peggy Payne
      July 5, 2018 at 3:08 pm Reply

      I’ve been thinking the same thing about the length of the class, Robin. Even making it 45 minutes would be a help. And “breathing into my thigh” is a delightfu way to sum up the skepticism. I went so far as to find a good tape online, but then I haven’t gone back to it. You’re doing well to do some on your own.

  • July 5, 2018 at 7:13 pm Reply

    Another challenge – my new landlady might have some suggestions – I can ask whatever question[s] you might formulate. I think this too will pass, especially as some of your other ongoing issues pass. You’ve enjoyed Yoga before so I expect you can again, when the context, time and timing, teacher and style are Right.

    • Peggy Payne
      July 5, 2018 at 7:16 pm Reply

      My other ongoing issues are going to pass, Bob? More on this later!

  • Lee Grohse
    July 7, 2018 at 2:49 pm Reply

    I returned to yoga about 2 years ago after a few decades long absence. For about a year and half found it great. Then like you I began to find it stressful. I’d resent the “it’s time to change clothes and get in the car and be somewhere” part of the lesson. So I’m taking a break from class. If you haven’t tried all the instructors you’re willing to, I’ll suggest one more. Judith Valerie. She’s “our” age, teaches classes at various levels including “gentle” yoga for people older, having health/injury issues. You would love her. She’s funny. Doesn’t take herself or the process too seriously. Is excellent at observing students and their bodies and giving you suggestions or modifications. Teaches both evening and day time classes ,some at the Friends meeting house near your office. Handles payment in a business-like but flexible manner. Is respectful but not too heavy or preachy on the eastern religious aspect so class suits both people who are looking for the spiritual and those just wanting the body work. And she has a lovely English accent.

    • Peggy Payne
      July 7, 2018 at 8:29 pm Reply

      That’s the part of the lesson I like least, Lee. I do know Judith Valerie and have heard lots of good things about her teaching. The teachers I’ve tried have been at a health club through the free-for-elders Silver Sneakers insurance benefit. Free was very enticing, but things might go better in a class not quite so gym-style and focused on workout.

  • […] an update to my recent post My Yoga Sabbath Problem, I’ve found a teacher I like, Judith Valerie, and have gone back to yoga. This is progress […]

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