I started yoga at 46, with my body and spirit in disarray. A few months after losing a job that I had invested decades of my life into, I had given birth to my second child with a second c-section. I was grieving and in pain all over. I started to rebuild my body with the help of teachers at a new yoga studio down the street from my house. What I didn’t realize then was that my spirit and mind were also embarking on a journey that would transform my world view over the course of the next 5 years.
At 51, I can do things I never imagined I would be able to do. I can get into headstands from all kinds of angles and am slooowly weaning myself off the wall for handstands. Backbends and splits are my friends and my acute hip pain is a thing of the past. But what is more remarkable is my relative calm (relative to the earlier version of myself—with two kids and a career, calmness is very much a work in progress) and my belief in my infinite potential. I attribute my physical and mental health to my newly found awareness of chi, the energy flow that animates my muscles and my brain. As my yoga coaches constantly remind me, our breath is our chi, and with and through our breath, we can do just about anything. Yoga trains us to observe and guide our chi, which helps us identify and clear out our blockages. Chi keeps my body humming.
In the course of my study of feng shui, I realized that our external environment works along similar lines. In the time-tested Chinese philosophy of environmental design, chi is the big star. Without the vital flow of energy in a home or office, there is no health, prosperity, or good fortune. Blockages of chi in our environment can foster feelings of stagnation, unfulfillment, and even depression. There is energy emanating from the things around us, and, as in yoga, observing and adjusting the flow of chi can optimize our well-being.
Even knowing what I know, my house definitely does not meet the gold standard for feng shui. It’s a daily challenge to keep my house clutter-free, with one kid who leaves a trail of dirty clothes and socks behind him and another kid who likes to collect rocks and sticks and whatever else catches her fancy. And after paying for summer camp and cello lessons, there’s not always a budget for repainting or retiling the kitchen to have it match the kitchen of my designer imagination. But I am aware of where the major blockages may emerge, and I give my house a little bit of love all the time—like when I buy new plants or replace tired cushions—to ensure that it continues to love us back.
Feng shui, like yoga, is a practice, and there is no arrival at a final destination. And as the focal points of our practices, our bodies and homes are things that we should always attend to. Like a conscientious gardener who never ceases to prune and weed, we stay attuned to the flow in our homes and steer it sensitively to our benefit. My all-white jewelbox penthouse apartment may be as far off in the future as a press-up handstand, but just as my imperfect yoga practice keeps me limber and pain-free, our feng shui-lite house keeps our family intact and happy. Our flow, these days, is made up of equal parts energy + laughter + a dash of feng shui, which, it turns out, is a magical formula.