Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Yoga and the path of least resistance

Dear. God. A few months ago I wrote a flowery and breathless piece about the joy of yoga. I wrote about how I loved my body when doing yoga, how it was rest for my restless mind, and how light and beautiful I felt when I left. Since then, I've attended a few more classes, all yoga 101 classes and thought perhaps I was languishing in them and needed to take it up a notch. So I went to Vinyasa Flow, which sounded like a good way to ease into the the big kids class. I don't recall the last time I so seriously misjudged something. If yoga 101 is freshman level, the class I went to tonight is the first draft of your doctoral thesis.

The lithe instructor started the class with something he would do if he were just "coming in off the street." A handstand. I thought for sure he was kidding until I saw everyone doing one and staying that way for at least a minute or two. I just kind of assumed some semblance of downward facing dog and occasionally lifted one of my legs halfheartedly like I was considering a handstand. I thought then that maybe I should quietly roll up my mat and leave. A class that starts with a handstand is not likely to become more accessible to out of shape non yogis like yours truly. But I stayed. And it was kind of brutal. They did stuff that I can't even describe and really didn't think was possible for anyone who wasn't Madonna or a breakdancer. I sweat heavily and spent many quality breaths in child's pose wondering how close to 7:15 we were. Did I mention that Vinyasa Flow is also an hour and a half? One of my ears became slightly plugged with sweat, my clothing was soaked, and while Simon made a point to talk to other folks 'on the path' after class who occasionally sought respite in child's pose, he said nothing to me. I'm sure he does not expect to see me again. I don't know if he's right or not. I do know that I will be at yoga 101 on Saturday morning with a renewed appreciation for all things basic.

In my basic classes, there is an emphasis on form, on finding the edge of your resistance and not forcing yourself past it, instead breathing and waiting for your body to yield, to give you an invitation to the next edge. Because of that solid foundation, I'll be very sore tomorrow and Friday but I'm pretty sure I didn't hurt myself, straining to meet the class where they were instead of acknowledging and accepting where I was. I was frustrated, I wanted to be able to put my head next to the outside of my ankle and then balance my weight on the palms of my hands while I extended both legs but bad things would have happened, perhaps to everyone in the class, if I had pushed the issue.

So even though this evening was awkward, sweaty, and I feel I looked like Jack Black doing yoga, it was also a handy object lesson in striking the balance between forcing it and resting in what is. Some things should be forced, sometimes yielding to the flow is disastrous. It is easier to forgo basic hygiene, it is easier to protect your pride or feelings by refusing to allow anyone to reject you, it is easier to let things be and hope the universe delivers something yummy. It is the path of least resistance. My body will never issue me an invitation to do a handstand right off the street or any other time if I don't practice, don't seek to improve my form, my balance, my strength. Perhaps tonight wasn't just an impossible number of downward facing dogs and planks. Perhaps it was a situation that forced me, for my own good to seek balance in the challenge of growth within my very real limitations. Perhaps boundaries is a kinder word and I can accept that some of them are actually walls and may come down during the life long improvement project that is me. But I won't get there going with the flow.

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