I want my life to feel like ashtanga yoga.
About a month ago, I started a yoga class at my friend, Rhonda’s, new studio. I went to a couple of classes and then life got in the way, illness, lateness, and our trip to Michigan, so I missed class for a few weeks.
At Yoga Sunya, they teach ashtanga vinyasa yoga, which is characterized by focusing on a dynamic connecting postures. The movement between each posture is just as important as the posture itself.
I went to class on Saturday. I have done some stretching here and there in the past month since my last class, but I haven’t done a full hour’s worth or even more than a few minutes of yoga at home. But about halfway through the class, my body took over. It was easy. I just did the same thing over and over again. And soon it was easy. It felt good.
I don’t mean that it felt good physically, even though, it did feel good physically.
More importantly, it felt good mentally.
At one point, it didn’t feel good physically. Briefly I thought I might pass out because I was underneath the heat vent and I got my first glimpse into what menopause might feel like.
So I moved away from the vent. I continued on. And it was easy. It felt good. I liked it and I want to do it more and more. Instead of stopping, which, part of me wanted to do, after my short stint with fake raging hormones, I continued. And it was easy.
After class I sat down with Steven, Rhonda’s husband, and my instructor. We chatted for about an hour because I’m writing a freelance article about their new studio.
He shared how he learned about yoga. He gave me a brief yoga history lesson. And he talked about how his practice affects his life.
When he started doing yoga, he thought it was just another form of exercise. Something to help keep him in shape. After some time, his understanding of yoga morphed. He began to see the connection between his daily practice and his mental state.
After only a few classes, I have begun to see the connection. And now, I’m looking forward to continuing on with it so I can see more long term effects.
The first few classes I took with Steven, I grunted and stretched. He adjusted almost every pose I did. I tried really hard to pay attention to my breath. Inhale, stretch. Exhale, stretch. Oh, crap, I inhaled before I was done with the exhale pose. “Hurry, hurry,” my mind said. “Catch up.”
I started out like that during this class. Then something happened. I don’t know what it was. Somehow, my body took over.
I didn’t have any great realization. The only thing I did differently this time was tell myself not to worry.
I told myself to stop thinking that everyone else in the class was noticing how bad I was at this. I chose to tell myself, “It is okay if you aren’t as fast or as smooth as the other students. Nobody is judging you. Nobody else cares if you stop or if you do a wrong move.” I paid attention to my breath. I did the moves. I stopped over thinking every little thing. I got behind a couple of times and instead of skipping the in-between movement, I just followed my breath. Instead of staying behind, I caught up. Pretty soon I was feeling stronger and more powerful than I had only a few minutes before. I was flowing.
During our interview, I told Steven how my body just took over during class.
When I told Steven this, he smiled and said, “You dropped in.”
I didn’t ask him to explain because I thought I knew what he meant. Maybe he meant something else, but I interpreted it to mean that I let go of what I was thinking.
I let my body drop into the flow of the movement. I stopped trying to control my body with my mind.
I want my life to look like that.
Whenever I attempt something new, I know what I want to do. But I find myself constantly worrying that it’s not good enough. Or somebody will tell me that I’m doing it wrong. Or that I can’t do it. Or that I won’t be fast enough. I won’t be good enough.
But the truth is, I’m the only one telling myself that stuff.
Well, no, that’s not true. I didn’t completely make it up. My parents told me that stuff during my childhood. I was expected to get A’s in school because “You’re smart.” If had questions, I was told, “Don’t be stupid.” I wasn’t given choices. I was limited on food and television. I wasn’t allowed certain activities because of religious beliefs. I was forced to go to church, which gave me a neurotic fear and unhealthy obsession with my afterlife.
I didn’t like sports so I always got picked last because I wasn’t fast enough, even though in eighth grade I almost beat the fastest girl in track during a fun run. I would have at least tied with her, but when we rounded a corner, out of sight from the teachers, she pushed me off the road. I was slowed down just enough so that she beat me, but I hauled ass right behind her even so. Bitch.
There have been many moments in my life where I had small realizations that I was fast enough and smart enough. But I always talked myself out of that awareness. I told myself it was a fluke. Somebody else wasn’t feeling good. I caught a break.
I’m not going to do that to myself anymore.
After my class and interview with Steven, I decided to start doing what came naturally. I decided to listen to what I want. Not because I’m feeling particularly selfish, but because it will help me practice doing what I want in life.
I went to lunch at Mr. Natural, a local vegetarian restaurant. I’m not a vegetarian, but I have been craving vegetarian food lately. I ate there with a friend last week and the entire week afterward I kept thinking about the milanesa patties with green chile sauce, nopalitos, gorditas and their freshly made corn tortillas. So I went and ate there. I didn’t think to myself how I really shouldn’t be eating out, or tell myself that I needed to get home and do some work.
When I got home, what I really wanted to do was watch a TV show and drink a beer. So I did. While I was sitting there, I noticed that what I really wanted to do was organize a space in my living room that has been badly out of whack since I moved in. It’s been four months.
It is finally clean. The clutter is gone.
Over the past several months I’ve been working on organizing my thoughts toward what I want and what I want my life to look like. I’ve been telling myself that if I just work toward those goals, they will come.
I do believe that is true, but what I’ve realized that may not work for me because my mind is constantly fighting with me about what I should do.
I am constantly trying to remind myself what I need to do.
But this doesn’t work for me because then my needs and my wants start to conflict and I do whatever I need to do in order to avoid the conflict.
Now, though, what I need to do is to stop. Listen to my breath. Watch my inner thoughts and let them flit away. Let the actions arise effortlessly.
I want my life to look like yoga. That is what I want.