Wednesday night I did 30 minutes of yoga, which is nothing short of miraculous. I had to modify poses like crazy. (Have I mentioned that I apparently have arthritis in my knees? Forcryingoutloud, is there no respite from the indignities???) And the aforementioned voices in my head would NOT shut up, and no it doesn't help to know the committee meeting in there is all me. In spite of all the racket, though, it was a remarkably yoga-like experience.
My life coach, God love her patient heart, challenged me to think about why I want to have yoga in my life. Am I just saying that to please her or someone else? Is it what I really want? Certainly, there are things about yoga I know I don't want.
Yeah... not so much with that.
But I don't really want this either:
I don't know much about Gurmuhk (Exhibit A) and her yoga, truth be told. But I know that if I start appearing in public dressed like that, I will deserve what I get. As for Ana Forrest (Exhibit B), I would love to be that strong, but only if it happened by accident. She brings a steely ferocity to her yoga that I can admire -from afar- but I don't really want to emulate.
So what does Andrea-yoga look like and why do I want it? Father Joe Pereira is onto something when he says that yoga is loving yourself back into life. As I did yoga, I encountered all sorts of "dead zones" in my body. I don't mean metaphoric chakra-stuff here. There were places along my back that I told to move in such-and-such a way. These places didn't taunt with me disdain or pain. They just plain didn't hear the suggestion that I wanted them to move. There was no response at all.
There have always been places where I struggled to find activity and where my yoga has been challenged. My upper back and shoulders are no yogini's dream come true, and never have been. But some of these dead zones are new, and that's just frustrating. It's daunting how quickly flexibility and strength disappear from the body. It's also true that my body is not pain free. Things hurt that didn't use to hurt. My doctor encourages me not to be sanguine about that. It's not old age creeping up on me, along with my impending 50th birthday. It's disuse. Get to work, he says.
But I'm still being negative, saying what I don't want. I realized the other day that the almost-constant refrain in my head for the past 25 years has been "I just want someone to love me". I thought the person I wanted was Dave and that I had to do whatever it took to make that happen. I apparently didn't HAVE whatever it took, because we all know how that story is ending. But I now know that there are people who do love me, and they turn out to be way more important and good and true than he ever could be.
They are loving me back to life, true. But they can't do all the work. It's time for me to do some of the loving. Part of that process has been for me to revisit and reclaim the girl I was in college -the last time I remember feeling powerful and competent. Along with her mindset, can I have her body? (Oh please, she said to the nice man with the red horns and the tail!) OK, there will be some wrinkles and stretch marks and gray hair that weren't there then. I get that. But why can't my body have the range of motion it had then? Why can't I have the certainty that I am attractive and desirable that I had then? Why can't I have the confidence that my body will do what I ask of it? My doctor tells me that there is no reason at all. Get to work. (Well, he didn't actually weigh in on the attractive and desirable question. I'm extrapolating.)
So, I don't particularly care if my chakras are balanced or my thymus is thumped (don't ask... it's the weirdest damn thing). I don't care if the sutras are studied or I EVER really finish the Pradipika. But I want more than stretching and strength, too. I want literal and metaphoric balance. I want a body that celebrates what the human form can attain. I want the experience of doing amazing things and the certainty that there are enough amazing experiences still to come to last a lifetime.
Yoga is a daily practice of doing only what you can do today. And the learning isn't linear (when is it ever???). Just because I could do a pose this way today doesn't mean I will be able to do it that way tomorrow. I might improve. I might not. I might get worse. And I get to learn to be okay with that. Challenge without denigration, that's my task. Don't be comfortable with too little from yourself, but nor should I frame modification of a posture as failure. Doing the think I can do right now is important for its own sake and it makes way for the next thing. If the dead zones in my body can resurrect (and they have before), then perhaps the dead zones in my psyche can do the same. It's about reclaiming abundance, that's what it is.