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One of the Most Luxurious Things: Thoughts on Yoga

July 11, 2011

Do you have any secret hobbies?

I do. Mine is worrying about my posture.

By nature, I am a person who balls up into a tense wad whenever anything goes wrong. Anything. During a bad week, I look like an attendee at the Pillbug Family Reunion, before cocktail hour.

My shoulders believe that folding inward will protect my heart. When they aren’t doing that, they are climbing up into my ears. It is not clear to me what they think that might accomplish.

It’s an odd way but a common for a human to protect itself. Though I know this in my brain, I can’t seem to right it, once and for all, in my body. I can only make significant improvements through targeted periods of lots of stretching and constant correction.

With my life the way that it is, there are not many of those periods. No, I am more likely to carry small yet dense individuals around, folding myself even further into an advanced origami shape, than I am to stretch regularly.

However, it is easy for me to continue on with my project of worrying about posture no matter what I am doing, because I can multitask and do that hundreds of times a day. The clear irony is that if I stopped worrying, my shoulders might retreat from my ears, at least a little.

This morning I was able to go to a yoga class. The teacher had a perfect little star t-shirt, no belly, great posture, an open chest, and a curiously giving attitude. These yoga teachers never cease to amaze me. A foreign breed, I don’t know whether to trust them, because they seem so giving and open—or to hide from them, because, come on, who are they trying to fool with this calm and comfortable-in-the-world act?

I realized during the class that one of the most luxurious things I experience is having someone help me stretch. The teachers sneaks over quietly and helps push my shoulder back down to the floor during a twist, or they push on my lower back to get it closer to my feet during child’s pose. It’s up to me whether I smile at them or pretend they aren’t there: I feel like either option is fine. I feel taken care of, and like they know what they are doing, and like I am getting better, and like our relationship is pure and uncomplicated, and like life is good. It’s a comparable amount of goodness to how Dutch chocolate ice cream makes me feel, and yet there is nothing regrettable in this experience, nothing that isn’t virtuous.

Yoga costs $16. You have to get yourself there, and then you do a lot of physical work, but with good leadership at the front of the room, it is never not worth it, and the payoff is multifold. My posture is better. My arm muscles are more attached to my arms. I’m less mean. You’re less mean.

I always joke that doing yoga has made me a better dental patient. Better for the dentist, no doubt, but also, I feel far better able to process physical pain and fear and really, any sort of stress. I might have those x-ray things that bite that make your gums bleed in my mouth, but I am also breathing, and I know that it will end soon, and I don’t let my brain panic and get the better of my body. Or is it vice versa?

Through the cycle of tensing and relaxing during yoga, I am compelled to remember what it feels like to relax.

Maybe that is the thing with the yoga teachers, who do about 100x or maybe 1000x as much yoga as I do. They feel so much better from doing yoga, in every aspect of their organized and well-muscled lives, that they can help others in a clean and bright way, and not make them feel aware of the gap in ability and way of being.

Or perhaps it’s that they know how superior they are, and it’s not even a question, and of course they can help your slouchy self get back into the shape of a human, at least for an hour, without you being any sort of competition for them in terms of posture or muscles or calmness.

Whatever the case: I love having lavender massaged into my brow, and my hips pulled gently down out of their sockets. Though I have a natural tendency to be suspicious of them, their intention feels good, and so does my body.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2011 12:10 pm

    I love the gentle push on the lower back!!! Unfortunately, my arms are barely attached to the bone right now and I am not positive I could touch my toes. I was certainly a little calmer if I went on a regular basis, but it was never a complete attitude repair. I was lucky to have that taken care of by God’s Grace (Yep, I am Lovin’ Jesus up over here and He’s so much more everything than yoga teachers…which I can say ’cause I tried both for my attitude problems and only one completely worked :)…if only He could do something about my spare tire!

    Kelly Duckels Allard

  2. Michael permalink
    July 11, 2011 12:37 pm

    I know what I am doing tonight!

  3. Karen permalink
    July 12, 2011 9:49 am

    Yeah, this is what I miss about yoga. It’s so much *more* than pilates. Maybe I can go back now that pilates has fixed my back- b/c that was the thing that made me unable to do yoga. Yes I know it’s supposed to be good for your back, but not if your back already hurts, trust me. I tried.

    My very favorite thing was when the instructor would smooth my furrowed brow during shivasana. That was awesome. I tried to teach my husband how to do it and it didn’t really work. So I guess I need to go pay the $16.

    Thanks for the inspiration:)

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