My old thoughts on yoga: This is boring. When do we get up? I’m not burning any calories. My mind is making up a grocery list. Why does anyone want to do this?
My new thoughts on yoga: Zen. Deep peace. Wellsprings of sadness. Lotsa good crying. Abs. Connectedness.
I started practicing yoga because my body was sick of my shit. It just kind of refused, after a while, to lift heavy weights and thump the hell out of its own heart. I had a thyroid scare, lots of sinus issues, anxiety in spades, and insomnia. A lot of people said, Welcome to motherhood! I refuse to accept that becoming a mother–or becoming an anything–deserves such a death sentence. I was tired, I had bruisy purple moats beneath my eyes, I was swimming in a perpetual Jello dreamworld, and my body said, Yoga.
I had done yoga lots of times and just wasn’t impressed. I thought of it as supplemental stretching. I decided to start back at the beginning. I relearned the art of the simple downward dog, chaturanga, forward fold. I lost myself in poses, in movement, in subtlety. When I first did kundalini yoga, I cried through it. That’s when I knew how much I needed a practice. Only, my perfectionist tendencies tried to convince me I couldn’t be a REAL yogi unless I frequented a yoga studio or became a teacher or could get into an unassisted handstand.
But that was all ego garbage, and the cure was more yoga.
Here’s what I learned:
The body stores emotion.
Exercise is a meditation.
Primal movement awakens something ancient in your soul.
Limitations are not lifelong.
You must be okay with going back to the beginning.
It’s a practice. Be okay with not being good, & you’ll always get better.
Flexibility is gradual, on & off the mat. It is also never the same. One day you’ll find you can rest your forehead on your shins, and the next day you might not find the same stretch. It’s still progress.
Yoga is metaphorical. You will see your life in it.
The best physical results come from mindful and spiritual practice. It all begins inside.
The deep release of savasana comes after an intense practice, when I’ve worn out my mind of anxiety. That’s when the magic happens. The best way out is always through. -Robert Frost
Yoga helped me revisit stagnant pain and release it. I now realize how much unconscious trash was stored in my tissues. It hurt beyond hurt to relive the feelings. Funny, I didn’t so much connect the tears and emotions to actual concrete memories; every time I stretched in a new way I just allowed the flow of energy. I cried through kundalini meditations and the trick was this: I just didn’t get up. Now, most of my practices are joyful, or at least simply stress-relieving. But there was all this stuff, first, to surrender.
When I was doing other sorts of exercise, I was trying to manipulate the way I looked. Ironically, it was when I SOLELY concentrated on how I FELT that my body changed effortlessly–I had heard of this phenomenon but never trusted it fully until I let go and gave up forcing my physical form to do things it wasn’t meant for. It was when I no longer cared to change my outward appearance, that my outward appearance twinned the inner love I felt for myself when I did yoga. Eventually, all that yoga-love transferred to other parts of my life. The mirror offered a more relaxed reflection…and defined obliques. (Also, yoga “not being hard” is a myth. It can be, and usually is, just as challenging as any other form of exercise, depending on what you’re doing and how deep you’re going.)
Yoga is the place I go when the world is noisy and I can’t filter out my own knowingness from the endless fray of information. Yoga is for when I can’t find the words, but my body knows the way. Yoga is for when there is pain I can’t name, or joy I can’t access. Yoga reminds me of my flexible spine and spirit, my birthright-supply of prana, the awakening of the Universe in my very own little body. And sometimes I need that gilded cord connecting myself to what’s bigger. Because I’m afraid of the world and the trappings of this digital, turned-on, achievement-obsessed culture. I’m afraid of my not-enoughness. I’m afraid of my sadness. It doesn’t resonate with how I feel deep-deep inside, which is expansive, excited, ripe with possibility. Yoga is for body-love, for oneness, for all the truth we store in our bones–a thing we cannot fully know until we give ourselves to it.
Do you love yoga? Did you always? How did you find it, and how does it make you feel?