Let me just preface this by saying that I’m NOT trying to claim I’m all at one with the world and all that razzamatazz. I’m not a walking ball of light and fulfillment. I’m not at peace with my inner being. You can’t steal my sunshine, I cannot be your guiding light, I am not a firework – my sunshine is mine so rack off.
I did however, do a yoga class last week.
On my lunchbreak. As part of a 10-week pass that I bought from the yoga studio around the corner from my office. And I also just recently booked in for class no. five.
“Ooooooh, how impressive”, I hear all 15 of this blog’s followers utter mockingly. Yeh, but no. It is impressive, for me, OK? It’s impressive because I was once the lady who worked through her lunchbreak, worried incessantly about something or other, already suffer from a full-on stress disorder anyway yet still put myself through the misery of never slowing down, never catching a breath, never taking stock. And yoga, at least once a week IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, lets me slow down, catch my breath, take stock.
And I fuckin love that it does that.
In 2006, I was a little lost.
This feeling would last until 2011, when I would tell myself, “stuff it, it’s your life, lady, live it how you need you”. But anyway, 2006. I felt I had accomplished nothing of note, I could see everyone else excelling in whatever the hell it is they were doing, and everyone just looked so damn happy. Outside of my circle of friends (dramatically changed now, since that time), the people who looked the happiest were the yoga teachers from my gym.
I sort of idolized them. They slinked into the room like agile cats. They wore little, or no, makeup. They looked fit and healthy. To me, they looked like they were living a life free from stress, living as if they were free from the grasp of consumerism. And then, you know, there’s all the bendy-bendy shit, which surely helps them in the nighttime hours, know what I’m sayin’?
So I incorporated yoga into my workouts. I made sure I did it regularly, and while I felt looser and energized after the session, I couldn’t say I felt any happier overall. It wasn’t like little yoga angels embraced me as I huddled over in my Child’s Pose. I’d return home and there’d be booze with the flatmates, stress with the demands of work, something not going right in my love life. Something, always something, and the yoga wasn’t doing anything to make me feel better, really.
But now I’m realising that yoga isn’t about being like other people.
It’s not about emulating anyone, or aiming to be another version of yourself. At least, that’s not how I’m looking at it. Coz I’d suffered from comparisonitis for a long time, and I realise that life’s not about keeping up with the Joneses or the Kardashians or the yoga devotees. So my yoga practice now is about what I get out of it in my busy day, when I’m answering a billion emails, reading through complicated contracts, living inside my brain trying to come up with copy that doesn’t read like crap. For me, yoga is about stepping away from the everyday busyness and allowing my mind to take a breather, to focus on what I carry around with me all the time (my body) and letting myself take stock of how my mental and physical selves are coping.
Mindfulness is a funny thing, isn’t it?
When I first heard that phrase I thought, “ohhh, poo-poo, I’m totally aware of everything, I think in fact I’m HYPER-aware of everything”. But that wasn’t helping. Now mindfulness to me is about taking in even the things that I want to brush away – loud noises, negative thoughts, little stressful reminders, letting them run through my brain, and then letting them peter out. I will get to them, but I’ve heard them. And I love how yoga really lets you be mindful of your body. For people who have been doing yoga for a while, this sounds like duuuuh … basic stuff, but for me it’s a revelation. You’re allowed to focus on tiny little minute muscles. The way the backs of your legs touch the floor. How you’re standing in certain poses, how you hold your breath when you’re trying to balance. I’ve even noticed me clenching my teeth sometimes.
It’s nice, you know, to know what your body does when it’s under stress, and also when it’s allowed to let go.
But it’s nicer that I don’t have to compare myself to anyone else in the room.
Some people in my class do the lunchtime classes to get away from their desks. Some people do it to avoid injury. Some do it for relaxation. I do it for all those reasons, but also for the simple fact that it’s training my brain to think a different way. Not through goal-setting, hitting deadlines or number-crunching. It’s not even like other physical exercises where you weight gain or loss, muscle gain etc. It doesn’t have to be about that.
The things I’ve noticed about my body and my mind since I’ve just accepted that yoga is a part of my life now include:
- My body not moving and working like it used to, like it did when I had these lofty ideas of being as agile as a ballerina if I did “enough yoga classes”. I’m older, I’ve had injuries, my lifestyle has changed. I can’t pretend it hasn’t. I can’t go back to the way my body used to be. I just have to make do with what I have now, and not take my movements for granted.
- The non-comparison thing is a big one for me. I don’t have to look around the room and feel inadequate. I don’t have to measure up to anyone, except to how I was in the last session. Can I go further this time, or should I take it easy? It’s up to me. And it doesn’t matter what I do – as long as I don’t injure myself.
- It’s nice to think about my body in a serious way, the way I do with work and finances etc. You know how being “detail-oriented” is a good thing in certain careers? It’s great with yoga too. OK, so my left side moves a little better in a certain pose than my right side. Interesting. Like, seriously. It IS interesting.
So like I said, I’m not joining a yoga teacher’s camp or anything, but I think I’m finally understanding what all the yoga fuss is about. And I didn’t need to buy fancy yoga clothes to figure it out.