Ways of Seeing: Dancing can be good yoga for lovers

I love Valentine’s Day because I love love. What could be more fun than a day dedicated to romance and chocolate? Sure, it’s overly commercialized and all that, but why not ignore the bad and enjoy the good?
In a story I read recently, a woman was grieving because her sweetheart had just broken up with her, two days before Valentine’s Day. She was standing on a street corner, trying to make a call at a pay phone. (For those of you under 30, a pay phone is a public telephone, often enclosed in a small booth. In olden times superheroes used these to change clothes, and also civilians could put money into a coin slot in the phone and call people.)
So this terribly sad, heartbroken woman is trying to make her phone call and she can’t get the phone to work, and she’s crying on the street, when a homeless guy walks up to her and hands her an absolutely perfect fresh gardenia flower. It is such a delightful and unexpected gift that it stops her in her tracks and snaps her out of her self pity.
In that moment she decides that instead of spending Valentine’s Day feeling sorry for herself, she will look around for opportunities to make other people happy.
If you are lucky enough to have a sweetie, whether you are in a new romance, or have been married 40 years, please put this paper down right now and go give them a shoulder rub! Are you back? I hope they enjoyed that.
If you are single, try this — you might like this even better than a shoulder rub: Sit up tall, and bring your two arms in front of you, parallel to the floor (so that you look like someone sleepwalking, or maybe a little bit like a zombie). Now bend your elbows, so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor, and your forearms are straight up and down. Slowly draw your elbows, forearms, and palms together. Notice if this gives you a stretching sensation across the shoulders and upper back. Want more stretch? Place the right elbow on top of the left, and bring the backs of the hands together. Be sure to keep the upper arms parallel to the floor. Taking smooth, full breaths, consciously release tension from the shoulder and upper back area. Repeat with left elbow on top of right.
Whether you are single or coupled, taking care of your own body and mind is a beautiful gift to the people around you. I know that when I don’t get enough exercise, hot tea or green vegetables, I can get cranky. We all store tension in our bodies and minds, and we all need to find ways to release it. The shoulder stretch described above is one method, another is to put on some Stevie Wonder and dance! If your sweetheart is nearby, get them to dance with you. Dancing in the kitchen is an excellent relationship tonic. We used to pick up our cat, and dance around with him. Then we had a baby, and danced around the kitchen with her. Now our baby is 10 years old, and rolls her eyes at us. She will occasionally join in the dance, but soon I think we’ll be back with the cat.
Relationships can be a lot of work, and it is normal for tension and stress to intrude. Be mindful of your stress levels, and be mindful of your mortality. I have two friends who have recently lost their longtime companions. I know these grieving friends are grateful for every loving thought and deed expressed in the time they had together. I know those years went by way too fast.
Joanna Colwell is the director of Otter Creek Yoga in Middlebury’s Marble Works District. She lives in East Middlebury with her husband, daughter, father-in-law, and two cats. Joanna wants to thank her Most Fantastic Husband for putting up with her for all these years. Feedback for this and other columns warmly welcomed: [email protected].

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