I am normally actively anti-fad. I have not read Harry Potter or Twilight or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I don’t own Uggs or leggings, I never bought a banana clip in the 80s, or fell for a boy band in the late 90s or got a Chinese symbol tattooed on my lower back in the last decade. If everyone’s doing it, I am out, just out of principle. So, you may ask, why do I do yoga?
1) The exercise is so hard, I am forced to stop thinking about everything in the past and everything in the future and be totally present in the moment. The practice is so hard, I must focus on just me. I cannot tend to other people’s needs, I must tend to myself. I will not get through it if I don’t. Watching other people, comparing, thinking of my to-do list is not even possible. The practice is so hard, I can never do it perfectly, I am always arriving, always right where I need to be. The practice is so hard that when the hour is over and the yogi sends the first wave of cool air in, it feels like I have earned the relief. Every practice brings struggle and peace, every practice I die and choose to be re-born.
2) The mat lets me declare holy ground. I find the boundaries of the mat helpful. I know how much space I am allowed to take up, and I am pushed to joyfully take up every inch of it. There is my mat, my plot of earth. I share the room and the air and the energy with everyone else. I take up space and share space simultaneously, and everyone is granted the same amount of space to take up. We are free to fill it with our own flare.
3) It is helpful to connect with my body, to notice my toes and thighs, to re-learn the curves and freckles that we are taught to ignore and dismiss.
4) I am reminded every time of my limits and my capabilities. The body is stronger than my minds thinks it is. My body is capable of amazing things. I am, actually, quite strong. This is helpful to remember now and again. Yet I have a permanently bent left elbow and a chronically tight neck. And that is good to remember, too. There is room in my being to hold all the talent and blemishes.
5) When I gaze into my own eyes in the mirror, cheeks red and dripping with sweat, I find calmness in my own face. I see myself as strong and beautiful, and I try to carry that with me in my day. Everything I need is inside of me. My own breath and gaze calms me.
6) I love to sweat. Sweating makes me feel alive. It reminds me that everything is working, that my body is fascinating. Sweat takes away all that is unimportant. It is a leveler. I have started to believe there is much healing in sweat. I can sweat out of me all the actual and metaphorical ickiness that was stuck in me. I replace it with water, and try again. Yoga feels like holistic thawing. My body, mind, heart and soul find warmth.
7) When I breathe through a difficult, painful pose with a calm face and a calm body and spirit, that begins to carry over to my everyday life. In painful situations, I find myself calm and breathing, not running away, but living through to the other side. Mindful breathing is a skill that has enhanced my life, so is setting joyful intentions and dedications to focus on daily. Discomfort is not be avoided at all cost. It is not the worst of things. Crisis is opportunity, discomfort can be creative.
8) Today I actually had old skin coming off of me with the heat and sweat in sheets. It sounds gross, but I was shedding dead skin. This is just one small way that yoga is refreshing to me. It feels like intense renewal. I walked out literally a new me.
9) My yogi says things to me like, “Your flexed jaw muscles are not serving you right now, so let go.” Or, “The teacher in my recognizes the teacher in you and all things.” I love that.
10) There is balance to be found. Balance between effort and rest, between body, mind and spirit, between intentionality and spontaneity, between grounding and reaching. Between inhale and exhale. Between taking in and letting go. And so with life.