Perfume, Yoga and Life

What does perfume have to do with yoga? Not that much, and everything.  When I go through a yoga class, I always try to apply everything I hear and learn to things I love, and that does include perfume.  There are parallels to both, especially in what I get out of them.  both are very contemplative and most of the time very healing and soothing.  Now and then that isn’t working that well.

Yoga took a backseat in my life the last few years. I was so gung-ho the first three years, just saturated my life with it – retreats, teacher training, conferences.  Somewhere after teacher training, I was over it, burned out.  Okay, is this sounding even remotely familiar to anyone that’s been perfume obsessed? I tried the past few years to get back into it.  I’d go to a class or three, then stop.  I’d sign up for Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park, then maybe go to one class over three days or skip all classes and just enjoy my solitary hotel room at The Stanley.

The time I would spend on the mat –  the place I used to work through anger, sadness, hurt, boredom – wasn’t giving me back anything like it used to.  I loved yoga before because it made me concentrate so much on breathing that it freed me to sort through my life.  Now my questions and emotions would just sit there as I moved my body, blocked from using yoga the way I used to.

At some point I decided to stop forcing myself to love it again and just accept that I was where I was in my yoga journey and that I may never want to be on my mat again.  It was a loss, but one I could lose because forcing it made me hate it.  Anything was better than hating what I once loved.  This is a repeated theme in my life. One time I hated someone I once loved, and it took me 25 years to get over hating him.  I got over it when I stopped hating him.

When I went through hospice training a few years ago, I remember the priest who taught it said “by the end, we will all be experts on loss.”  That resonated with me deeply because, well, it’s true.  The part he didn’t say that is more important  –  we can be experts on loss but never have learned how to let go of what we lost.

January of this year I decided I needed to get back into some regular workout, and I signed up for Orange Theory Fitness, which is a great workout, a mix of cardio and strength that is seriously fun and invigorating.  It was fine, it was okay, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t need to.

I let go of the hope that my yoga practice was not lost to me.

In letting it go, over the many months of this year, it has crept back in my life. I found myself just pulling out my yoga mat and sitting on it.  Not really doing anything, I’d just sit there for a while, maybe do a couple of asanas – you know, easy pose, down dog and mountain, nothing even remotely strenuous – and then roll my mat back up.  I took all my teaching and anatomy books out and sat them on my yoga mat up in my master bedroom, along with my block and straps.  Again, I’d go sit and thumb through the books, think about what I wanted to work on, then get up and walk away.

As Buddha teaches, “You can only lose what you cling to.”  I stopped clinging, I became okay with it – the loss, the wanting what I had back. I didn’t give up or pretend not to care.  I just accepted this is where I was and it might change or might not, and either way was right.

Still the urge to go to a class started small and kept building daily, and I ignored it. I know how that works.  I go to a class or two, and I’ll be done again, and I don’t want to go through that pain of realizing I don’t love it again and again.  It kept calling to me, and it was stronger every week.  It’s that past tense lover that could always talk you into another go, telling you it would be different, and you knew it wouldn’t, but you’d do it anyway because it was fun — for a minute – and then it wasn’t.

When the siren song got so obnoxiously loud, I  gave in and went to class.  When you haven’t done yoga for a while, it surprises me how damn hard it is. You think you’re strong and fit because you do hard cardio and weight class, and yet your butt is dropping in exhaustion halfway through yoga.  The first class was tough. So was the second.

And you know what? There was a third, and it was a little easier. Nowhere along the way was I feeling that soul sucking. Yoga was feeding me once again where for the past three years it was taking something from me. I have no idea why, I just knew it had changed and it was love again.

The past week, three different teachers used the same phrase while we were in an extended Warrior II or Shiva squats or some other brutal leg-killing asana series – all of this will end, I promise you.  When it hurts so bad you don’t think you can take it another second, just keep going because it will end.  You know what? They were right, it did end.  The bad, the good, the pain, the pleasure – all of it will eventually end.

We spend our lives waiting for the next thing, what comes next, when will it happen, when will we get there, and then we wonder, once we get there, when will it be over?  Why do I hate now what I waited for and loved?

What does that have to do with perfume?  That’s my cycle with perfume, periods of great love and passion, followed by droughts in the summertime or just being disenchanted with the industry. I learned to let it go, to stop trying to force myself to feel what I didn’t.  I accept that it ends.   It may restart on its own, but it won’t if I force it –  it will become agony.

And I promise you, it will all eventually end.  The last drop of that beloved, discontinued perfume (how many drops of Djedi do I have left?), the passion you feel for that glorious new release now (what was that perfume I loved so much last year?  Huh.)  The good will be over, the bad will be over, all of it will end.

What you do with knowing it will end and the ending creates the space for it to begin again or for something new to start.  Maybe a heartfelt appreciation for mainstream fruity florals? Okay, well, probably not that, though I do have to say I feel much more tolerant of those than I used to.  Accepting that “when we get there” will end and we will be there and then we will be waiting for the next thing to start.

It’s fall!  And my perfume indifference is over.  The nights have chilled a little, some days are just golden warm and not unbearable.  It is time for perfume, and coming back to this old love after summer months away have made me so happy.  I’ve scanned for new releases, going back to visit old favorites.  Perfume and Yoga love are back on the menu in my house, and I couldn’t be happier.  I promise, navel gazing is on hiatus as well – for now.  Yes, I’m still working on that big white floral thing.

What perfume habits/cycles do you have?   Do you hate them?  Just accept them?  Fall into the “what’s coming next?  Okay, that was new, now what” syndrome?

Winners of the Tom Ford Venetian Bergamot samples – odonata9, maggiecat, SundayH and Pixel.   Just click on Drop Us a Note at the top of the blog, send me your name and address and remind me what you’ve won.  I’ll send you a quick “got it” e-mail so you know it didn’t drop into my spam filter and then get it sent to you.

So let’s give away something today to the top two commenters.  How about that new Arquiste thingie?  Mansomething?  I know I’ve got it showing up this week, just haven’t gotten it yet.

  • grizzlesnort says:

    please enter me in your man thingie draw

  • Tena says:

    It is amazing how cyclical life can be isn’t it? It has been just a few weeks short of a year since my spouse of 20 years walked, and I am amazed at how life has changed, but at the core, I am still me. Just a little older and wiser, and eager to see which of the hobbies I have left behind still interest me.

    During this time, I have been focusing on favourites – too much going on to want to sample or explore, but the itch is coming back. Lately it has been Gardenia – last night was Tuvache Gardenia 1933.

    Please DNEM – I have been gifted quite a bit in the past year, and am content to wallow in what I have. This too shall pass I am sure .

  • Kandice says:

    Patty, thank you so much for the reminder. I’ve been going through a hard patch for a really long time now, and your post reminded me of my mother’s old saying, “this too shall pass.” I could also relate to your article because yoga has been the background music for much of my life, sometimes a passionate accompaniment and sometimes just a whisper. Where I live we’re still having 100 degree days so I’ve been mostly wearing my light colognes. I’m definitely looking forward to the time I can pull out my heavier scents!

  • Janice says:

    This cycle is so familiar in relation to so many things, including perfume. I think it really helps to accept that things wane and then come back in their own good time. And now you and DinaC. have me craving Bois des Iles.

  • imapirate007 says:

    I definitely hit a wall in the perfume department this year, but I think for me scent is mostly a way to save memories of every wonderful moment. This summer, was the first I had since my mother passed, so I spent every free day going to the beach with friends and I brought all my summery scent favorites with me. Some people take pictures, I spray. None of these scents are particularly high end- anything with coconut, frangipani, tiare, etc works. It’s definitely a snapshot I look forward to revisiting this winter.

    As for my preferred workout/method of staying sane, I love running, although I’ve had to take a rest because of injuries. Running may not be a fun activity but I try going somewhere scenic which I think helps with the meditative aspect of it. I live in an urban area, so running near spots that have a lot of trees is very soothing.

  • Heidi says:

    I hear you! I’ve been that way about knitting — I used to knit all the time before my son was born, and then I just didn’t have the time or energy in the evening — I just wanted to sleep. Then, I started itching to knit, and my mother-in-law commissioned me to knit a sweater for dad-in-law’s birthday…two years ago. A sweater on tiny needles with an intricate, ever-changing pattern that’s nonetheless repetitive. It’s so boring I can’t make myself finish it, and I still have both sleeves to go. But I’ve been finding myself petting sock yarns, and my BFF sent me a beautiful spun silk lace yarn for my birthday, so maybe one day I’ll finish the sweater and get back into the cozy knitting I love.

    Fall is rolling into the Upper Midwest with a vengeance, and I’ve found myself steering toward contemplative leather scents, like vintage Vol de Nuit and Daim Blond.

  • Donna S says:

    Love how everything is just put into your life for a reason. I’m now just thinking of getting into yoga for the first time but I just had a knee replacement year ago so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do but I’m going to one-day try to do this I was looking through an old collection of books and found a book on yoga that I didn’t even know I had so that’s funny and then your post about yoga…..these were all within just a couple of days of each other so I guess someone is speaking to me about this. And I agree with you on the perfume. I definitely cycle through different perfumes as well the florals the spices and seasons always speak to me and get me excited for the next new thing especially the fall!!!

  • Patchgirl says:

    Thank you for this. It has been a hugely difficult summer and a beautiful summer. Just knowing that others are going through the same thing gives one clarity. This is life. And perfume makes it sweeter.

  • Portia says:

    Wow! That was deep.
    I have buying surges, wearing surges, vintage, new, body, bath, everything surges.
    Portia xx

  • Nemo says:

    This post is pretty perfect 🙂 I feel this way about a lot of things in my life right now – my fitness level, some of my hobbies that I set a side for a long time while writing my thesis, and perfume too. I will keep your words in mind tomorrow and this week. Thank you!

    • Patty says:

      and the thesis is done? time to get back to some things that bring you happiness now!

      • Nemo says:

        Yup! It is funny how hard it is to get back out of that mindset though. I have to make sure I don’t beat myself up too badly about all the time off from the rest of life, and just accept where I am now. Easier said than done sometimes, but it sure helped to start my day thinking about it.

  • KimB says:

    For me summer brings out the heavy perfumes. This weekend was 90 degree weather + high humidity so I sat outside with L’Heure Bleue on one arm and Olfactive Studio’s Chambre Noire on the other arm, sipping water and reading. Nip inside for an A/C break than back out again. The heat and humidity just makes the ‘heavy hitters’ bloom – there’s nothing like it !

    As for yoga, I am a newbie. I have never been a fitness class person so I just do yoga at home using books and the Yoga Studio app and a mirror. I do one of the app’s pre-packaged routines plus one that is a combo of a few of theirs. I love it and really feel the difference on the days I don’t do yoga. For me the peace and clarity comes from the meditation at the end (10-20 minutes, depending on how much time I have). So I have started doing the meditation even if I don’t feel up to any of the routines and am finding it an interesting experiment…..

    • Patty says:

      Wow, I am impressed with your summer choices. I’m good with blooming white florals in the heat, but yowsah!

      Yoga is addictive. I used to call it my daily vacation. By the end of class I was so wrung out in all ways, it felt like I’d spent a week on the beach. I do the class just to get the final savasana – it feels amazing when everything else just exits over the course of an hour, and your mind is finally quiet and at rest. meditation is really hard for me, I can get about 2-3 minutes in before my mind overspills. I keep swearing to myself that I’m going to get a daily meditation habit and then keep putting it off. Maybe I’ll try again.

      • KimB says:

        I’ve been amazed by the options out there now with apps for meditation – I was never good at it before this. I have found that Yoga Studio app has a nice short 10 minute ‘body scan’ meditation that works for me. Also the app Breathe has a bunch of great breathing or body scan ones – I love the breathing ones since I can take in a nice sniff of perfume and just let it roll over through me. And these ones have a cue part way through to refocus me – I think that is the key. The wonders of technology 🙂

  • Caroline says:

    Been pretty good about sticking with yoga the past 4-5 yrs. Though I’ll never be flexible, it does help with balance and it doesn’t get boring. Perfume ennui on the other hand–yep, comes and goes. Oddly sometimes I enjoy reading about perfumes more than I like wearing them. Now we’re having a bout of 90-degree weather, I’ve had zero interest in bringing out the heavy hitters. Instead have been on a (judiciously applied) Eau Premiere kick.

    • Patty says:

      yeah, I’m so not flexible in most directions. My hips are all kinds of bendy when I do a wide-legged anything. The rest of them time, they are tight little bitches that do nothing but complain. 🙂

      I have moments when I’d rather read about perfume! it’s still on the cusp here, too much heat during the day sometimes to flip over to the deeper darker scents of fall and winter, but cool enough that I yearn for them!

  • melissa says:

    I am looking forward to the Jewish New Year this coming weekend. Thinking about smells of my dear Nana’s kitchen. It’s a time of welcoming another season, being grateful for this last year… And then soon after, a day of atonement for pain we have caused. Parallels to fragrance…. Memory attached to scent, disdain for the perfume worn in the hospital when my Mom was dying. Scents that may have brought comfort, now bring salty tears. Hopefully someday I will smile and be able to let go of the loss. And have peace when I dab behind my ears and on my wrists the last fragrance I gently applied to Mother. Namaste. Happy New Year. Peace to All.

    • Patty says:

      Oh, Melissa, that sounds peaceful. I don’t know how long it’s been since your mom died, but soft warm hugs for your loss. My dad has been dead for 20 years – it sounds so weird to say that because it can’t have been that long – and I can go back to that time in a flash and feel exactly the way I did then.

      peace to you, and Happy Rosh Hashanah.

  • Ann says:

    Yes, yes, Patty — I was nodding my head to much of what you said.Some days it’s hard to get going, I feel so blah, but I try to look on the bright side, count my blessings, remember my faith and know that this, too, shall pass.
    I’m not a yoga person but appreciate your ups and downs with that (and of course, with perfume). Especially in my now scent-free office; there are some days when I don’t even think about fragrance in the morning just because I can’t wear it. And it’s not until later in the evening when everything’s winding down that I can indulge myself. So glad things are coming around for you. Of course, DNEM, but as always, thanks for offering the draw for our lovely Posse peeps!

    • Patty says:

      There are always those periods. I know I’m much less subject to them than others, and for that I will always be grateful. I find, though, I get more cases of the blahs, and it bothers me. I fully intend to be one of those “rage, rage against the dying of the light” people, so that isn’t working out that well.

  • tiffanie says:

    Thanks for sharing the reminder to just keep going. I have been feeling the weight of intentional unkindness directed my way over the past few days, and it is good to just let it go.

    My perfume interest, though life-long, was kicked back into high gear less than two years ago, so I have had only a few brief periods of ennui. August was a bit boring for me fragrance-wise. I’m feeling renewed energy now with a new school year starting.

    Though we are in a bit of a heatwave, I reach for fragrance three or more times a day. Chanel Eau de Cologne, Orange Sanguine, No. 5 EdP, Bois Blonds, Eau des Merveilles. I’m using up samples right and left. This afternoon I dabbed Mistral Patchouli over some florals lingering from this morning and yesterday. It’s nice.

    • Patty says:

      I’m so sorry, Tiffanie. It is hard to let go of hurt, probably the hardest, and I feel for you going through that. i never understand how anyone can feel good when they are being deliberately unkind to others.

      August was boring fragrance-wise, so was July for me for that matter. Arggghhh, worst perfume summer ever, but I’m totally jacked for fall now.

      I love your picks. Eau des Merveilles will always be one of my great loves, there is nothing about it that doesn’t make me happy on so many levels!

  • Dina C. says:

    This really spoke to me Patty, because I’ve also fallen out of yoga practice after 3 or 4 years of loving it. But let me point out that I was a one-class-per-week gal, not hardcore like you. This summer my shoulders have started aching, and I suspect arthritis and osteoporosis. I’m not sure I could sustain a downward dog pose for more than a few seconds. Now that fall is here, I want to figure out what I’m gonna do for exercise.

    As for scent, I have joyfully gotten out Bois des Iles earlier this week. Tonight I’m wearing Scherrer, which is wonderfully green and smooth.

    • caseymaureen says:

      If it does turn out to be osteoporosis, just thought I’d let you know that my aunt took up tai chi as her exercise when she was diagnosed a few years back and it has been fabulous for her. She’s now 86 and still really enjoying it!

    • Patty says:

      Hey, Dina, have you asked someone if you can modify and not do the things that hurt you like downward dog? I have a shoulder injury that acts up sporadically, and there are things I have to stop doing or I feel like I may tear my arm out of my socket. I hate that I have to modify, then I switch that and get grateful that at my age I can do almost anything i want, I’m not super healthy, and if all I need to do is wimp out on a few asanas that hurt too much at this point and maybe always, it’s okay. 🙂 Or the tai chi as casemaureen suggested. Bois des Iles sounds lovely, that was one of my first big loves when I came back to perfume in the early 2000s!