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The Middle Place

February 18, 2017

Written by Marykate O’Malley, mother of three wonderful children, Gladwyne PA


A few weeks ago while skiing with my children, I was thinking about much harder resistance is. I resist speed because I simply don’t like to go fast. I don’t like the feeling of hurling down a mountain. I am more of a this all so beautiful and I love the time with my children kind of skier. It’s about the experience, not athletic feats. But it’s painful and hard to ski that way. It’s easier to let gravity, the shape and slope of the mountain, your form acquiesce with grace and take you. Which is like a dance, the balance between resistance and acquiescing. Resistance alone is hard,  resistance hurts.

And then this past week in a yoga class that I shouldn’t have been in because I was tired and not feeling great with an ongoing sinus thing, but pushed myself to be there, willed myself to be there – I tore a hamstring. 20 minutes into class the teacher offered up bound triangle as a challenge. I took it on the right knowing it was too early and I wasn’t warmed up. I took on the left and heard a pop followed by a ripple through my thigh. Taking challenges for me is the opposite of yogi. It’s ego. There is a lesson here. Throw out side crow as a challenge. I take it. Flying crow. Check. Wrap your legs over your shoulders and balance on your hands, allowing your center hold you. Check, check, and check. I will strain and tug and pull and barely get into the pose but I get there. No grace. Only will. Will can take you too far if you allow it.

No exercise for 2 weeks and then see how it feels the Doctor said. Which means no yoga, no physical activity which is an outlet for me, no skiing with my children. I am remembering being pregnant with my eldest and wanting to move quickly  and I couldn’t, my body wouldn’t allow it. It’s a strange place when your body doesn’t do what you want it to do. I notice the elderly and the deliberateness with which they move, this must be what it feels like and then some, a lot some. They have mastered grace, they have learned acceptance.

Yes, there is a lesson here. There is a humbleness in limping, in wrapping your thigh, and having difficulty with shoes and bending. This is the inverse of bound triangle and flying crow, the other end of challenging poses. Maybe this is how I master balancing poses – how to balance in life between pushing yourself and resistance, between giving in and restraint, between taunt and fluid. And maybe middle age is learning to dance with grace because the music is still playing.



Photograph courtesy of my beautiful and talented friend, Rachel McGinn photography


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