The pendulum has swung: I’m finally back to doing yoga. Again.
I always wanted to be someone with a practice. I’m not clear what that looks like, exactly, although I imagine it involves sitting a perky, well-shaped ass on a yoga mat more often than once every few months. What I actually am is a girl who’s dabbled on and off for the last 13 years and still can’t wrap her leg in Eagle pose or place her heels on the floor in Down Dog. From the years of running marathons, my hamstrings are so tight you could use them to pluck out a tune. I’m not flexible. I’m not graceful. But I do keep coming back.
My most admirably dedicated practice of yoga occurred during Freshman year in college. It was 1998, before the yoga craze really hit the Midwest. I borrowed a tattered copy of Richard Hittleman’s Yoga, and followed along with the daily exercises every night. Yes, even when I came back to my dorm room drunk. I’m not sure one receives the full benefits of yoga when intoxicated, but I was curious enough to try it out.
(FYI, doing Shoulderstand in the study lounge is not a great way to make friends. People tend to think you are weird)
Some months later, I left the above-mentioned university and moved to an apartment in Minneapolis. I believed yoga could be part of addressing some of the issues that had caused me to leave college in the first place, and wanted to move beyond Richard (even though I never did master that headstand away from a wall). There weren’t many yoga studios to choose from back then, but I signed up for classes at the one within biking distance of my apartment. I also brought my best friend and her mother along for the ride.
It was in this small, white-walled studio where we were berated weekly by a sharp-tongued Yogi who probably loved the discipline and hated teaching. Or at least teaching flabby, distracted beginners such as ourselves. I mostly remember feeling terrified throughout our classes (please don’t make fun of me! please don’t should at me to straighten my knee!). At some point I figured yoga should be more about fun, less about abuse, and I blew off the staid yoga studio and its resident drill-sargent.
And I stopped going. And I stopped practicing on my own.
Then, later, I started again.
The pattern has repeated itself for more than a decade. I practice for awhile, daily even. And then after some weeks, months, maybe a year, I need a break like a bad girlfriend.
I always thought someday things would be different, and I would move beyond the status of yoga’s favorite fair-weather friend. My life would change. I would be different, somehow transformed into a yogini with 6-pack abs, a jaw-dropping hanumanasana and a perpetual yoga buzz. Well, I’m now in my 30’s, still inconsistently showing up to yoga with my tight hamstrings. No magical transformations, although I’m learning to accept who I am, as underwhelming as that may be. I may never get that one pose down. I may never practice daily for months on end. I may never do a teacher training program. I may never be anything other than what I am– someone who loves yoga, but loves a lot of other things in life too.
Instead of focusing on the reasons why I stray, maybe its better to examine the reasons why I keep returning. I love yoga, have from the very first time I tried it. It feels great. It helps me approach life in a more balanced, thoughtful way. I breath deeper, smile wider when I do yoga.
In my grief, yoga has much to offer me, and maybe I will keep my practice going tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m glad I have yoga in my life to whatever degree I am ready for, and its always there for me to come back to.