I lay on my back in my yoga class, legs sticking straight up in the air. “Rotate your ankles and find every number on the clock,” said the instructor. I automatically sent each ankle rotating in opposite directions, unable to get them to agree, and the clock image dissolved in confusion.
“Now flex your feet and fan out your toes,” she continued.
I looked at toes and willed them to move. Up and down, yes, but sideways? I imagined them staring back at me in bewilderment.
“Now, for many of you your toes won’t move,” Inez said reassuringly. “That’s fine; just keep on sending that message. Someday, believe it or not, your toes will start listening.”
I concentrated hard on my toes like a fledgling mage trying to learn telekinesis. “Agite, molesti digiti!” Latin commands work in Harry Potter, after all. But my Latin is in my brain, not my toes, and there’s no connection in any language.
“Now hug your knees into your chest.” I breathed deeply in relief and earned an approving smile from Inez. Breathing is good too. But my mind wasn’t ready to move on.
“Keep sending the message, and someday your toes will listen.”
What a great analogy for parenting, I thought. My children are grown now, and finally my husband and I see some of those toes responding to the messages we’ve been sending. All of them value education, travel, and new experiences. They are loving, open-minded people passionate about making the world a better place. I see those messages blossoming especially as I watch my son with his son—reading to him so much that he’s had to get new copies of the books he grew up with, and immersing him in music. And yes, they all even learned to like vegetables; my green-averse daughter told me recently that she now likes Brussels sprouts, which are still beyond my tolerance level. The most important message I have tried to send is that they should follow their passions and find their true talents, and they are well on their way to doing that.
And now that I’ve sent my children out into the world, I’m finding that it’s time to take another look at the messages I’m sending my own toes. Maybe I don’t really care about perfectly performing Vivaldi’s virtuoso concertos; perhaps what matters is inspiring others to fall in love with music. And I suspect that novel I keep starting isn’t going to happen because I’ve wandered into songwriting instead. Songs actually get finished and I may even have the courage to launch them in public. I don’t think I’m going to finish reading the Aeneid in Latin, because I need to learn Farsi to keep up with my bilingual grandchildren. It’s ok to change the message when it feels right to do that.
The important thing, when looking at toes, is to keep sending those positive messages (and to ignore self-critical thoughts, like darn, those nails really need trimming). Because yoga does teach us that what seems impossible truly can happen.