I’m not talking about this like something that happened years ago that I am just now coming to terms with and have finally figured out. This is something that is happening to me right now.
After several years of off and on practice and being content in my perpetual beginner status, I decided to take it up a notch. I noticed that I felt shittier when I didn’t go to class and there must be something to that. I decided I wanted to be like those students that always opt for the most challenging pose and leave glowing. Not like the neon pink faced, mouth breathing sweat monster I turned into after an hour of asanas. I wanted to be one of those students that had the perfect balance, in life and in poses. That with just a few well-intentioned breaths I could twist myself into a beautiful bird of paradise and all my problems into oblivion. There are some that have it so blessedly easy. But not all. Not me. And I’m finding that that’s ok.
I wish I could say my yogic experience started with how much my practice has given me. How many amazing physical benefits I have received and how I now have a better understanding of the universe as a whole.
I wish I was one of those people that was transformed the minute they hit the mat. That every pose brought about the release and tranquility or ultimate ass-lifting glorification that has been promised so many times by all my Pinterest memes.
My yoga story starts with epic frustration. Blinding even. With the understanding that starting a physical career at the age of 30 is, well, humbling to say the least.
And I am not a humble person.
My experience starts with yoga gutting me. Physically and mentally. The more I go to class the longer my list of, “things I can’t do” gets. The more I try to balance my life the more I realize how out of whack it is.
And it is very frustrating to have your efforts matched with more problems.
The more it takes from me the more I realize I don’t have enough to fill up that space. Sometimes it makes me feel empty. Sometimes it makes me feel really lonely. In a sea of people standing on their heads I am the only one sitting on my ass. The more I go, the more that emptiness grows. Coming to terms with your current physical state is a battle we will face again and again and again and again….And I am, apparently, ill-equipped.
Yoga has opened up a space inside me that I have no idea what to do with. It doesn’t fill me with universal peace or karmic bliss. It is just…space.
I had this idea that if I if I just keep with it then it will natural get better. It will be easier for me to find time to go to class and I wont be sore after a few months. Even though this has never worked for me in any capacity before. So, naturally, after regular practice for the past 8 months I find myself in the same mental fog of frustration I have had about any kind of work out regimen. Then I thought, well maybe if I became a yoga teacher then I would have the motivation to continue and also make a career out of a healthy lifestyle, which would be a good balance to my bartending lifestyle. I could be a yoga teacher by day and a hot bartender by night. That sounds solid. I was planning on practicing this year and then in the fall of 2015 taking the yoga teacher training at my studio.
But then, some of my teachers told me that one of the authors of Yoga Anatomy, a favorite book of mine, was gong to be teaching this year and it was a great opportunity. So I signed up.
I’m about 13 days out from starting my training and my inner panic button has been pushed and is now thoroughly stuck.
We have several things on our list of preparations before training starts. One of which is to organize the house and make sure you have enough space to practice and have time to yourself.
I have completely redone my house. Well, not I but we. My wonderful husband has been more than helpful. We have rearranged, bought new furniture, cleaned and shredded literally 6 garbage bags worth of old mail and even bought a new table that collapses so I can fold it up and put it away when I need space to do yoga.
Space. I have made so much space for this in my life. And when I sit in meditation and feel the chasm of space I have put forth so much effort into creating I always feel the excitement of anticipation as I wait for something wonderful to fill it up. And I always feel the bitter disappointment when nothing happens. Like a stupid fucking echo in a cave.
Among the list of to-dos, is a reading list. Of course Yoga Anatomy is on there. I have mostly used the book as a reference in the past and have not read it cover to cover. The first assignment is to read chapters 1 and 2. I skipped most of those previously because I have taken anatomy before and a lot of it is about breathing and I totally know how the lungs work.
Wrong. So, so wrong.
See, it’s not about anatomy really in these chapters. I mean, part of it is, but it is mostly about the combination of our physicality and yoga mentally. I came across these paragraphs, and they ruined me.
“In a cell, as I all living things, the principle that balances permeability is stability. The yogic terms that reflect these polarities are sthira and sukha. In Sanskrit, sthira can mean firm, hard, solid, compact, strong, unfluctuating, durable, lasting, or permanent. Sukha is composed of two root words: su meaning good and Kha meaning space. It means easy, pleasant, agreeable, gentle, and mild. It also refers to a state of well-being free of obstacles.
Sukha also means having a good axle hose, implying a space at the center that allows function. Like a wheel, a person needs to have good space at his or her center, or functional connections become impossible.”
Good space. Mind. Blown.
For many people this will seem very trivial, obvious even. For me, this is life-altering, mind being, truth of the universe. I created space and didn’t know that was the goal. The objective. The destination.
Well, that might be overstating it but still. A small bit of success in what felt like a long list of failures.
Because when you start looking at space like a destination and not a beginning, all the things you thought were failures start to add up to something else all together. When I see the list of poses I can’t do in class it isn’t a list of can’ts anymore. It’s a space in my practice. A hole. A useful space where an axel will eventually go. When I attempt to hold a pose, feel it start to break and I fall, I am the crumbling ruins that over time will be removed and space for something new will take it’s place.
You see, we don’t start out with space. Especially in this day and age. We are so full to brim with information, fear, anticipation, doubt, happiness, love, hate, anger… the list goes on and on. Cultivating space requires the decimation of things we so desperately thought we needed. The foundations we have built our lives on, the pillars we have raised to steady ourselves.
Yoga is taking away so many pillars I use to stand on and slowly replacing them with my own two shaky legs.
I understand why people focus on receiving strength from an outside source. A deity, a religion, a significant other. Having to scrounge it up from your own volition is fucking rough.
But with the study of anatomy comes the realization that our bodies are amazingly crazy. Like, full on nutter butters. So many things happening inside us that we know nothing about. The body is a violent place. Chemical compounds, explosions, absorptions, reactions….it’s a beautiful, well structured mess in there.
It’s no wonder it takes so much to create something as simple as space. And it’s no wonder we don’t quite know what to do with it when we get it.
So how does all this fit into a yoga practice? I dunno.
the good thing…?
No the problem with yoga is that when you do it and really get into it, like doing all the meditations and trying to breath right and all that, is that you can’t really hide anything.
All your proverbial shit comes out.
Those weird experiences you thought you had forgotten. Or those big chunks of time in life you thought you were totally over.
They come out.
I’m not really sure why. Maybe because no one really knows how to deal with what happens to them appropriately while they are in a body? Like I said, the body is a complicated mess. And that’s the problem.
The good thing…?
No, the problem, is that our body has been with us through all that shit. And when we twist it and strain it and give it a chance to talk, it remembers….
It remembers things our minds were smart enough to forgot.
I always feel like my mind and body are at odds with one another.
But sometimes when I do yoga, it makes more sense. My brain is smart and wise. It knows what is best for me. It understands the reality of things. It has a conscious.
My body however, does not understand these ideas.
My body only knows what I have put it through. What it suffered through. What it enjoyed. So when I get on the mat and try to get the two to work together for just one hour a day I see the fractured relationship between what I have been through and what I should be. It’s not a bad thing. My brain is just a lot better at dealing with the here and now.
My body needs more from me.
It needs more time to process, to understand, to adapt. My brain is not restrained by this physical world. But my body is the definition of it.
Being in a body is hard.
It is limit.
It is restriction.
But it is also freedom and it is joy but there is no person that gets to avoid the inevitable outcome that our physical self will end with. Death.
The body is the physical manifestation of the reality that we will die. That our mind is encased in a meat sack full of water that will eventually bring us to ruin.
That’s why I do yoga. Not to move away from my eventual grave, but to understand my steps on the way there.
There are some things that will never change about me.
But there are some things I can breathe, twist, bend, invert, and relax into understanding and acceptance.
I started off doing yoga to try and change myself, but I know now that myself has always been good enough. I just didn’t know how to get that into my physical body.
Not until yoga.