Monday, July 01, 2013

the promises of the yoga mat

I eye my yoga mat, rolled out and waiting for me to step on it. Yet, I hesitate. So many talk about yoga as powerful, as a practice that transcends and moves outside simple physical fitness, but I'm not sure. There's something to yoga, I think, but I seem unable to access it.  Instead of walking onto the mat, I roll it up and clean the house. Tomorrow, perhaps, I'll give it a try.

As I traveled all over this past month, I've been reading books from the massive TO READ pile. (Now that my qualifying exams are done, I can justify reading something NOT for my doctorate. For a month, anyway).  I borrowed May I Be Happy by Cyndi Lee from my friend K (and yoga teacher/inspiration), and I had borrowed Poser by Claire Dederer from another friend who began yoga feeling skeptical but fell in love.  As I read both of these books, I began digging into why I was resistant to the idea of yoga, why I shied away from it when everything I encountered would indicate that it would be something worthwhile to practice.

Lately, I've been feeling like I need to work on other parts of my health, examining my emotional/mental well-being as well as my physical body. I have finally been running regularly and incorporating a bit more strength training in, but something felt a bit off. My reading of these two books about yoga might seem coincidental, but they got me thinking about what I might be missing.

As I worked through May I Be Happy, I realized that I'm a little afraid of opening myself up to yoga. I'm afraid my body isn't good enough and that yoga will expose it as weak and unworthy. That because I'm inflexible in certain parts of my body that yoga will always be a struggle, and I'd never be able to feel anything but frustration and discomfort. But something Lee says resonated with me: Yoga is what you do with the body you have today. It's something I've heard before, but there's no such thing as having the "right" body, or even the ability to do the "right" pose. It's beyond that--even if I can't make myself look like the twiggy Yoga Journal model, that doesn't mean that the pose is wrong or my body is wrong or that I should feel frustrated.

Viewing yoga as a chance to explore my body, to concentrate not on physical fitness but also awareness shifted my anxiety away. I began to feel a bit more eager, to see what I could discover about myself, to link physical movement to thought and emotion. That sounded pretty cool.

I borrowed the mat from my sister-in-law, since I left mine behind at home. Rolling it out next to the bed in the spare bedroom, I began making my way through the sun salutations and the standing sequence. As my body warmed up, I began to relax and enjoy the poses, linking breath to physical movement. By the time I finished, I felt a measure of calm. Perhaps this yoga stuff is worth pursuing a bit more.  Perhaps I will.

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