Usually at bedtime I read the girls their two books of choice (each) and then give them time to read them themselves. Sophie typically rolls right over, closes her eyes a couple times, and drifts off to dreamland. It always makes me grin to watch my first-born wild woman settle into sleep.
Sophie isn’t quite as much of a book lover as her sister. Often she chooses the shortest story with the fewest words or a picture book that we can get through fast. Her ultimate goal is sleep, which I can appreciate.
Grace on the other hand has a book reading ritual. She starts at page one and recites the story in her own words. Since she can’t yet read, she remembers the words that I had moments ago spoken to her and sweetly gives it a go. Sometimes she puts her finger under the words and pretends that she knows what she’s reading. I love to hear her quiet voice and marvel at the imagination that goes into her story telling.
To be honest, most night’s I stand by the pink lamp with my hand on the knob giving her the countdown to finish up.
But last night she was reading The Night Before Christmas and The Nutcracker with illustrations by Mary Engelbreit. How could I hurry such beautiful examples of children’s literature?
While she read I listened, but instead of standing with hand on lamp, started some yogic stretching.
I began in a forward fold and felt my spine lengthen toward the ground. An unforced sigh pressed through my open mouth.
Since I have a rather bendy back, I swung gently back and forth feeling the space between the disks release in the most delicious way. With arms bent and hands holding opposite elbows to pull myself lower, then fingers around big toes, and finally palms placed completely under foot, I was ready to straighten back up.
Grace was finishing up The Nutcracker. On the last page, when Marie is grown and her prince has come back for her, Grace’s only comment was about her pretty long hair. It’s a really beautiful illustration on that last page, long haired Marie and her grown up prince surrounded by candy. She closed the last page and moved onto her second book of the night.
I carefully tightened my abs and with flat back did a reverse swan dive with arms open wide. The energy around me helped pulled me back up. Arms raised overhead, I thought about my Vinyasa teacher Jen and how she always presses her hands together once overhead, reaches them into a slight backbend and then pulls them down through the third eye to the heart center. Most yogis press hands overhead, but the addition of a slight backbend before settling at center heart is the perfect finish to a round (of folds). And also, Lord knows I love any excuse for a backbend.
The energy I was pulling felt grounding and palpable.
Forward fold again.
Grace continued to read. I heard her say, “His face was round, his cheeks like apples, his nose like a red cherry.”
I straightened my back to lengthen and peeked up to see her on the page with Santa’s picture.
Back down into a fold I hung myself heavy and my spine lengthened more. Swan diving up, eyes closed, gathering energy, hands pressed into prayer back above my head, back gently bending, down through the third eye, center heart, and face to knees again, hands to toes. Two more times I found myself back at center heart, where I stopped still and felt myself breathe.
That stillness within myself has been absent as of late.
I reveled in it until I was ready to move again.
I folded forward and twisted my right shoulder toward my left knee. Then the reverse.
The act of twisting brought up the truth; I have been neglecting this practice that gives me so much.
I widened my legs and twisted into a reverse triangle. With right arm up to the sky and left arm holding tight to the opposite ankle. I felt the familiar opening of my heart that a good twist can provide. While not as open as a good strong up dog with shoulders pulled back and down, chest pressed forward, this small twisting action let the side of my heart peek to the sky.
I turned to raise the left arm to the sky, right arm to left ankle, and attempted a bind, by wrapping the left arm around my hip. The bind wasn’t working for me, so back went the hand, yoga fingers to the Gods.
Soon, I found myself back in tadasana, hands pressed in prayer, my breathing slow and steady. I opened my eyes and listened to Grace.
“And he decorated the tree, and he rode out of sight, Merry Christmas night.”
She took her books and rolled over so that they could be laid on the floor next to the bed. Grabbing her woobies, she pulled the covers up over her head and closed her eyes. The part of the bedtime ritual, which happens a moment before I switch out the light, occurred without her saying a word. I counted out loud, “One, two, three,” and the room went dark.
I crawled into bed with my girls, Sophie already far away and dreaming. Grace said, Love you Mom,” and “Sleep with D angels.”
The next thing I knew it was morning and the sun was almost up.
The three of us slept for a full 12 hours. Was this my Christmas wish coming true a few days late? Maybe.
It’s more likely, though, that my short yoga session facilitated the much-needed and greatly appreciated long winter’s nap.
Beginning tonight, my lamp standing ritual will have a new pre-cursor to light’s going out. I can barely wait.