Get Your Yoga On
Just over a fortnight ago, I did something uncharacteristic: I committed to a month of ninety minute yoga classes.
THIRTY days of NINETY minutes of YOGA.
Given that I already had quite enough (one might say more than enough) to fill my time, this decision might legitimately be seen as the act of a crazy person. To confess, I had done yoga before. My experiences, however, had been tinged with the feeling that it wasn’t ‘real’ exercise; more the sort of thing one did after a spin class to stretch oneself out. Friends and I scoffed at the ‘spiritual stuff’ that came alongside it. I used savasana or corpse’s pose to construct ‘To Do’ lists rather than to pay attention to my body or to meditate. In short, I was a yoga cynic. As I set up my mat and blocks for my first class of the challenge, I still wasn’t quite sure what I thought I was doing there…
In reality, it was an act born of desperation. In my working life, stress is de rigeur and, having just moved to an entirely new country in a phase of my career that requires a rather large amount of time, my work-life balance was a tad askew. By askew, I mean, totally and utterly unhinged. Between meeting new people and saying yes to every possible commitment for fear that I would otherwise miss out, the candle was burning rather fiercely at both ends.
Waking frequently in the small hours of the morning, I would alternate between morbidly contemplating the spectre of a future of sleeplessness and wistfully thinking that tomorrow might be better. The former option resulted in the mental cancellation of any physical exercise I had planned for the coming day (obviously I would be too tired). The latter, incongruously, involved the return to my long held fantasy about being the kind of person who ran every day and bent effortlessly into graceful yoga poses, all the while chugging from a water bottle and radiating the sort of healthy glow and zen that makes you think ‘Wow, she has it all figured out.’ This future version of me would magically occur when I had a bit more time. When work was less overwhelming. When I was sleeping better. When my life was a bit more settled. When, in short, I’d finally got this living thing down to a fine art. The process of getting to that point never featured in my fantasy.
Until one night, fifteen days ago. That night, it dawned on me that work was probably always going to be overwhelming. That I was probably never going to have ‘more’ time and that life was not going to get more settled. Or at least, it was never going to get that way by itself. If I wanted to be this fit, healthy version of me in the future, I was going to have to do something about it now.
So I browsed Yelp. Googled yoga studios. Looked at Pinterest’s array of photographs of lithe, lean yoga practitioners, all captioned with zen, motivational phrases. And promptly signed up for thirty days of yoga and a half marathon. Yep, a half marathon. The thinking being that if I am going to do something, I may as well jump in, boots and all. More on that later..
Fifteen days in, I ache. I yawn. I take longer than the average ninety year old with back problems to climb the stairs. I have come close to tears at least once, during a particularly grueling Bikram session that I thought would never, ever end and which occurred on the same day as a work review.
I’m sleeping through the night (mostly). I have a new awareness of how my body works (even if that awareness is paired with muscle ouch!). I have an excuse to take deliciously hot baths more regularly (again, for the muscle ouch!). All in all, the world seems to be a rosier place. Granted, I still construct ‘To Do’ lists in my mind during savasana but I’m handling my work-life balance in a saner fashion. I even did my first headstand the other day. A feat confirmed, despite my incredulity, by the studio mirror – usually my mortal enemy.
The point is, despite my skepticism, it seems that all those platitudes that people associate with yoga – zen, mindfulness, stretchiness – might actually be true. Done properly, it certainly qualifies as real exercise (again, solid proof lies in my new found muscle friends). The ‘spiritual stuff’ turns out to be about focusing on fully experiencing the moment that you are in and being grateful for it. There’s a lot to be said for that attitude. It might even be the kind of thinking that will help me be that person who has it all figured out. Or maybe not. But I’m halfway to doing something that I fantasised about doing. It’s no longer a ‘someday’ dream. It’s a ‘happening right now’ dream.
So get on your mats people. Get your yoga on.