It’s festival time! Every year for almost 40 years, there has been at least one (if not more) member of my family present, out ‘in the Gumbo’ of music, food, art, and culture that is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritge Festival. This year my cousin Savannah and I are carrying the torch. We have been festing together since we were kids.
The fairgrounds can seriously tap energy stores if not adequately prepared. From experience and lessons learned we know to carry a bag of survival essentials to deal with sun, mud, port-o-lets, and logging miles on the track. It takes practice and stamina to work it right.
Along with the festival comes about ten straight days of incredible night shows all over town that run into the wee early morning hours. A big fest day can literally mean 18 hours.
Considering that one of the main reasons to be out in all of the wonderful madness is THE DANCING, it’s essential to keep our bodies feeling good and well. This year at the fest I heard more than a few folks talking about aching backs. And this just breaks my heart. No suffering allowed at Jazz Fest!
But, I can relate and it’s totally understandable. My back gets tired and aches after doing anything strenuous for an extended time and a New Orleans party is no joke! Whether it is the joyful occasion of a marathon of music and dancing, or any event that calls us into full mobile action for a considerable duration of time, we can and should participate fully without it taking a massive toll on our bodies. This is about enjoying life after all, right? So how do we do it all and still feel great for another day?
And yes, my answer is once again yoga. In this year’s scenario of epic Jazz Fest stamina, I have been extra diligent about weaving 5-15 minutes of restorative yoga breaks throughout my days. When I do the poses, if it’s possible, I give myself the full treatment of bolsters, blankets and an eye covering. If that’s not possible (or if I am out on the fairgrounds) I simply lie on my back with bent knees and cover my face with a hat or t-shirt or something. I turn the cell phone ringer off, and use the cell phone as a timer to make sure that I stay in the pose for a good amount of time–at least 3 minutes, but preferably 10. Using a timer actually helps to calm and quiet my mind more deeply and quickly which leads to the deep relaxation of the muscle fibers that restores them. Then the timer lets me know when it’s time to resume with activity.
This past weekend I did a supported bridge pose for 10 minutes before leaving for the fest. After a full day of walking lots and dancing in the sun to funk, blues, and rock-n-roll, when I got home, my back was tired. I did legs up the wall and reclined cobblers pose. And voila, the ache-y tired back was completely restored in a matter of minutes and I was ready to go out for another round of fun. Saturday night required a few supported poses too, and the payoff was great. I had enough energy to stay up and watch one of the greatest music lineups of the year which started at 3am. Yes. Oh yes I did stay out all night long dancing! Which I have not done in as long as I can remember. My alarm clock (that wakes me up) went off before I went to bed. I can safely say that has never happened.
I even surprised myself that I was still up with energy to spare! No aching feet or back. And I am ready for another 4-day full weekend of it starting tomorrow. It hasn’t always been like this for me. There was a time when at this point in the festivities I was having to force and push myself into unhealthy places to endure the fun. That’s one way to do it, but I am much more happy and healthy (which is really what it’s all about) this go around. It’s all yoga and dancing and art and culture and most of all good company that fuels my fire.
At 40, I am more vibrant and have more stamina than I did in my 20’s and 30’s. This year’s Jazz Fest I feel better in body mind and spirit than ever. The longer I explore the art of restorative yoga as a daily practice, the more I believe in the healing and supportive gifts it offers in every scenario that life presents.
So…Get thee to a bolster, and then meet me ‘in the Gumbo’ for some dancing!