I went to Lahari Yoga Studio last Friday with my girlfriends Mona and Norine. The minute I walked in, I was delectably enthralled; the beautiful sari wall hangings, the vibrant colours, the smell of lavender and the welcoming souls around us….Sigh, too bad that initial charismatic high fell flat just moments into my incredibly awkward and oh so taxing yoga session! The inflexibility and tightness within my body translated into mild stretches and weak attempts at the poses; never mind the rising disdain and frustration within me for yoga in general, (obviously hot yoga is only meant for rubber bodied people)….
But despite the rising internal resistance inside of me, I was also feeling so conflicted; I wanted to like it – the music, the atmosphere and the unfamiliar path our yogi was taking us down (away from the hustle and bustle of the world outside, to this quiet and beautiful promise of freedom within was so titillating and sweet, I so badly wanted to follow her down that rabbit hole), but I couldn’t do it. I watched with envy as our instructor wrapped her legs over her shoulders and contorted her body in such beautiful ways seemingly radiating eternal youthfulness…I relished in her whole hearted encouragement to play and explore our own mobilities, I was drawn to her radiant energy and uninhibited playfulness.…but NOPE, I couldn’t do it.
I gave up part way through the session. I mentally detached, physically flopped, stopped trying and sipped from my water as I patiently waited for the last of the minutes to tick by. I rationalized excuses in my head to take me off the hook. It’s probably against my religion. Yoga isn’t for everyone. I’m better at running….blah blah blah. Bottom line was, I tried but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even flatten my palms on the ground when I stretched down, couldn’t keep my heels on the ground for downward dog or keep my hips on my ankles for child’s pose. Sigh, it’s not for me I begrudgingly surmised.
When asked by our glowing yogi after class (over delicious treats) how I liked it, I told her it was too taxing for me, I tried but couldn’t do it – and she plainly with a smile, asked, why was I trying, what was I trying to do? Um, you know, the poses you were leading us through!….But she replied that yoga isn’t about trying, accomplishing or being anywhere else other than where you are at….huh? Wow, that’s some deep shit. I finished my baked quinoa pasta with red thai curry sauce and chicken and bid them adieu convinced yoga just wasn’t for me. It was uncomfortable, awkward and too hard.
But her words stayed with me that drive home – why was I trying and not just doing? Why wasn’t it good enough for me to just experience the poses in the state that I was in(tightness and all) without trying to go further? Do I ever perform without striving for certain levels? Do I ever work without standards? Ever act or play without trying to constantly get better and progress or accomplish something? Aren’t I always in forward projection mode? Isn’t that the direction I’ve been programmed to head all of my life? Succession, progression, keep getting further ahead, further up or keep accumulating? I mean the purpose of volleyball or basketball practices back in high school were to make us play better as a team, not just play. But then it dawned on me, that’s practice when understood as a verb. When I looked it up, practice can also be defined as a noun, “the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use” – the actual application of yoga, the practice of it, seems more about being than trying – experiencing than striving, accepting than fighting, releasing than holding on to…..wow so interesting.
The more I stewed on this, the more I realized that I have accumulated so much over these past years. I am literally wearing layers and layers of past experiences, good and bad: the ways that I’ve understood them, the meanings I’ve given them, expectations I’ve unconsciously put on myself of how I expect myself to perform, defined standards of where I expect myself to be….never mind the layers of excuses, justifications, default patterns and ways of thinking I snap into without even realizing. For so long I thought I was fending off expectations I thought others were putting on me, only to realize that I’m fighting myself and the expectations I’ve burdened my own self with. There was a time I felt freer to play, explore, give, experience, jump off cliffs….part of my accumulation over the years include such things as caution, safety, fear, ego, defensiveness, self-preservation….
So this year, when I put together my vision board for 2015 – there is a shift, a palpable shift from where I’ve been headed and the direction I’ve been going for the past few years. I do want to lose, but it’s not pounds or inches this year…I instead want to lose in a different way…I want to strip myself of all the accumulation on me and around me; free myself from my own accumulation. I want to stop practicing and really just practice life. Michelle our yoga instructor last Friday said we as humans spend too much time thinking, doing etc…all we need to do sometimes is just be….we are human beings after all. Yes. Exactly. <3