My moods have been up and down this week — and so has my yoga practice.
On New Years Eve, my practice felt glorious. I was one with my movements of body and breath. Afterward, the teacher even came up to me and said my practice was stunning. Stunning! She said that in a sea of people (the class was packed to capacity), I was clearly in my body, and really feeling the practice. It was a WONDERFUL compliment.
A few days later, I took another class with the same teacher, and I felt like a complete klutz. My belly fat was spilling over the waist band of my fancy new Lululemon yoga pants, my shirt kept falling forward into my face, and my body felt achy and sore. Where on New Years Eve I’d felt open and light, now I felt awkward and blocked. No matter how much I breathed, and even in some of my favorite poses, I just couldn’t get into it. I felt like a new driver, behind the wheel of a clunky old car.
So much for stunning.
Now, I realize that’s harsh. I realize that going to yoga class isn’t just about feeling beautiful and light. I show up on the mat because that is the place where I experience myself most deeply. Without Twitter, or traffic, or any distracting thoughts, I can just be me for 60 or 90 minutes, working out the kinks, creating lightness where there was weight, openness where things were stuck. The physical, emotional and spiritual are intertwined, and moving my body and breath gets all of me moving, until I emerge from class, feeling far more alive than I was when I arrived.
Even in a “bad” class, I leave feeling better than I did when I got there. But still, it upsets me when I feel so awkward on the mat, because I firmly believe that what we experience on the mat is a mirror for our everyday lives (or, as yoga teacher Cyndi Lee puts it, our yoga is a template for our lives). For example: if you’re flexible on the mat, bending and stretching easily into poses like forward fold or pigeon, but struggle with poses that require strength — chair pose, for example — then chances are, the same is true in your everyday life: you’re flexible (willing to go with the flow, perhaps, or intellectually open minded), but you struggle with strength (maybe you don’t stand up for yourself, or avoid facing challenges).
I can get carried away with this kind of analysis, in a way that’s not very helpful. “Oh god, I couldn’t do any of those balancing poses today, my life must be so off balance!” (Balancing poses are, in fact, very difficult for me, and this does cause me some angst.) The challenge, I think, is to be open to the insights yoga provides, but to hold them inside you lightly, as observations, rather than judgments.
One of my goals in 2011 is to develop a consistent yoga practice, which for me means going to class at a studio three times a week. (I may also practice at home, but since I find studio classes most powerful, they’re my primary focus.) As I immerse myself more deeply in yoga, I plan to reflect on what I’m learning at least once a week here on this blog. My goals are two-fold: first, I’d love to open up the power, wonder and complexity of yoga to those who are interested, but not yet yogis themselves; and second, I’d love to build a community with fellow yogis. If you fall into either cateogry, I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed, or sign up for updates via email.
If you don’t currently practice yoga – what interests you about it? And if you’re already a yogi, I wonder, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the mat that’s been useful in your everyday life? (Big question, I realize… but we might as well go big as we get to know each other :)).