Namaste-ing my Way to the Beach

June Gloom. The Marina Mist. This is how Santa Monica greeted me after moving across the country from DC. It’s foggy in the morning and burns off in the afternoon to reveal a beautiful beach day. California also decided to welcome me with two earthquakes in the short time I’ve been here. One was a 2.9 and the other was 5.2. Enough to rattle the windows a bit.

Family, setting up our new place, attending a Migraine conference. This has all kept me from my vision of waking up and going to the beach every morning to do yoga. I am never happier than when I have my toes in the sand, staring at the ocean and twisting my body whichever way it tells me to.

Yoga on the beach challenges my balance, a constant issue even on flat surfaces. I dig deep and tighten my flabby core (from lack of use) to steady myself into Warrior III. A big obstacle in practicing on the beach is finding the right place to fix my gaze. That’s easy in a studio. Focus on that piece of carpet that got stuck on someone’s jewelry and sticks up above the plane of the floor. But staring at the sand or the waves can throw me off easily.

Sorry, I need to pause for a minute…

I’m back. While writing this, I looked up from my notebook, threw it down, ripped off my earphones, grabbed my camera and ran toward the ocean. A pod of dolphins were slowly making their way south down the shore. I had to capture the magical moment. And I feel renewed.

I didn’t even notice the chill of the Pacific water as I recklessly ran out to see the beautiful creatures…even though I had my brother’s expensive (not waterproof) camera. Luckily we all survived hopefully with some amazing pictures.

And that’s the beauty of being present. That’s what yoga has taught me. No distractions. Just listening to my body, being aware of my surroundings. I made sure to take the lens from my eye to witness the gentle dolphins and take in the experience. It’s good for the body, but also for the soul.

If you asked me last night to meet you at the beach this morning, I would have laughed and said no. I went to bed at 8pm, exhausted from the pain. The migraine monster has been relentless lately.

I awoke 12 hours later by a phone call. Jefferson Headache Clinic called to schedule my next “Headache Camp” in mid-July. Yoga helps my migraine body, but so does medication. A couple of times a year, I need a break, my brain needs a break. A five-day, in-patient infusion of ketamine helps to hit the restart button. I’ve been desperately waiting for this phone call. With the date set, now comes the fun part of logistics, booking a flight across the country and recovering at home with my parents before returning to my new, amazing life at the beach.

But even in the hospital, I won’t abandon the thousands year old tradition of yoga. I’ll stretch in bed, walk around the ward. I’ll plant myself in front of a serene fish tank and gently push myself to breathe in and twist. Breathe in, raise my arms, breathe out, bring my hands to the heart center. With someone “baby-sitting” me during this small outing, I see what other poses I can manage.

It’s restorative. It speeds up the healing process. I do what I can to manage the monster in my head. I can’t do it every day, whether at home or in the hospital. I can go weeks in between a meaningful yoga session. But once I feel strong enough, yoga gives me back something that chronic pain has taken from me: power over my body. It may be frustrating and challenging, but it’s also beautiful and empowering, just like the ocean.

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