• introspection,  yoga

    To the Presidents, three hours of yoga and one hell of a bird

    The holiday weekend was filled with pure, unadulterated laziness. With Himself out of town, I thought that I might find the three days off rather oppressive, but I mostly found that even with three days basically to myself, there still  wasn’t enough time to do half of what I wanted to.  Clearly the problem is not external.

    I started out the weekend with an early morning yoga class, which I followed up on Sunday with a two hour yoga inversions workshop.  Basically I learned that I am not very good at being upside down.  I also learned that three hours of yoga in two days when your practice has not been particularly dedicated over the last year will turn your thighs into rock. It will take an actual volcanic explosion to make them molten enough to want to move again.  But I’m sure it was good for me; you’ve just gotta’ see my one-legged crow.  Maybe some day I’ll take the leap of faith and get that second leg off of the ground.

    Yogic inversions are suppposed to be good for the soul because they make you face your fears (and the strength limitations of your biceps).  I must concur.  It is scary to stand on your head with only a thin yoga mat between you and the floor.  And the floor hurts.  There are a couple of ways to work through this.  One, you acknnowledge the fear and then let it go.  Headstand.  Two, you learn how to position your body in a sensible way so that you master the physics.  This creates a body awareness.  The hip bone is connected to the leg bone.  Arms are easier to rest on if they’re positioned vertically enough that they turn into gravity supported shelves.  Crow.  Or, three, my method; find a wall, put your head on the mat, hop around a bit a la Gollum and pray.

    You can be the judge of which method is the most spiritual.  I can tell you from experience that the last will eventually yield results, though it helps if you mix the first two in as well.  I find that yoga provides a lot of metaphors for dealing with life in general. Learning to acknowledge and bypass fear is only one of them.

    The most valuable thing that I have learned in yoga is that success is rarely the correct object by which to measure achievement. It’s actually a rather shallow measurement, because it misses all the detail of the journey.  And if I’m worried about success, even when my yoga neighbor does a perfect unassisted middle of the room headstand (again), I’m never going to get that second foot off the ground.  And isn’t it the fact that I keep trying to fly despite failure really the important truth?

    In an unrelated adventure, I also met Cheeks the Quaker parrot this weekend.  (He does not actually wear a Quaker broadcloth suit.  I was disappointed.) Cheeks is approximately one pound, with semi-clipped wings, which he still waves around a lot.  And Cheeks crossed the entire living room to climb up my pants leg, using beak and claw, to sit on my knee and try to pick up the three pound ball of yarn I was knitting with.  He must have tried at least a dozen times, with each attempt winning him a few more inches before he’d have to put it back down and rest.  But he kept trying, which kind of makes that heart-filled creature my yoga hero.

    At least untill he shows up in my yoga class and does a perfect unassisted middle of the room headstand.  Then the bastard is on his own

  • spirituality

    Competitive yoga

    I’ve started going to yoga classes several times a week again.  Part of me is kind of appalled that this is newsworthy, as yoga has been a really important thing in my life for about a decade now, but the last year has been busy and finding classes that worked with my new kid-responsible schedule was difficult.    But that’s a bunk reason to not do something that I really enjoy, so I’ve rescheduled when I go to the gym to match up with when the yoga classes are offered there.

    One of the things about me is that I am not remotely athletic; I’m not even distantly related to the second-cousin of natural athletic ability.  I was the kid that was picked last in gym and for some pretty good reasons.  My vision sucks, which makes sports with balls not a very good match.  Other kids figured this out pretty quickly.

    When I started taking yoga, all of the above was true.  Then I had a teacher that came from the ballet world and she described what our bodies were supposed to be doing in a way that actually made sense to me.   Yoga requires a very different way of moving than that which Western bodies are used to doing.  It has a distinct learning curve, as your body strengthens and your flexibility increases.  I was in no way naturally good at it, but I was fascinating by the dance of it, the movement and the flow of breath.  I kept going back.  I kept practicing.  And, after a few months, I had a form in the mirror that I was really, really proud of, because I finally had an athletic control of my own body.  Yoga makes me feel strong and, in some ways, beautiful.  The poses, when done well, are visible representations of strength.

    And it’s peaceful.  When I leave a yoga class, I find that I am kinder, more open and more accepting of people.  I leave filled with more loving-kindness than when I entered.  My teachers talk about things like gratitude, accepting ourselves for who we are and accepting others.  To truly practice yoga, you must also practice things like giving up judgement and criticism.  You are meant to accept your body the way it is today and to work with the things you have today.  These are brilliant lessons for real actual life.

    Except, of course, it’s not easy to drop your ego in favor of the good of the community.  I was astounded by the negativity of my own brain in my first class back – I was weirdly competitive, despite practicing a non-competitive exercise.  I was not accepting, I was judgmental.  All of which misses the point entirely, but I was unable to drop my judgement of my own abilities, which were not up to the same level of performance as I’d managed when I was practicing yoga regularly.

    By the end of the class, I’d pointed myself back in the right direction, with a solid reminder of why I do yoga in the first place.  Yoga makes me like people.  It’s a better place to be.  I am really glad to be back.