This morning I went to yoga. I woke up feeling optimistic and fresh-headed, mostly because of the sunshine and a good night of sleep. I am still feeling like my body is made of rusted tin, so I figured yoga would either be the perfect or absolute worst way to spend my morning.
It turned out to be a mix of both. I took a few yoga classes when I lived in Milwaukee. The first one was taught by a ballet dancer who was obviously incredibly flexible and did each pose so accurately she could have been the model for a yoga coffee table book. Fortunately, she was also an excellent teacher who made sure to explain each pose very thoroughly, telling us which muscles to engage and which ones should be void of tension. I actually felt like a got a workout in her class. I was usually sore on the days that followed the class, realizing I could engage muscles I had never acknowledged. It was sort of like discovering my body and what it was capable of.
I also felt much more balanced. The I used to think that the whole body-spirit balance was for crazy new-agers who stink of patchouli and incense, surviving on jicamas and green tea, swearing that animal protein is full of evil. But I’ve realized over the last few months that it’s pretty important. I feel so much better when I’m active and taking care of myself. If I spend a few weeks with my butt on the couch, my whole outlook changes. The only thing that seems in the realm of possibility is continuing to watch Netflix and eating bowls of cereal. My outlook turns negative and I say no to everything because none of it seems worth the effort. Then somehow a switch is flipped and I get sick of the lethargy and go for a bike ride or something. That’s when things turn around – I’m more excited about life, days seem brighter and I get upset that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I want.
It comes down to something very simple that I don’t acknowledge as much as I should: physical activity like exercise, excitement, love, and sex raises endorphins. This makes a person feel good. It gives you a feeling of euphoria. Which might explain why Michelle Obama Arms continues to work out despite the fact that she looks amazing.
What I like about yoga is that it feels like an hour of stretching. You’re encouraged to turn inward, focusing on your breath and working at your own pace, coordinating the poses in sun salutations with your inhales and exhales. Today, I remembered the one thing I struggled with the most while I was in classes at Milwaukee: calming my mind in order to be fully engaged in the poses. The ballet dancer used to tell us that the goal of shavasana (the corpse pose at the end of a session, where the body recovers and your mind, body, and spirit are rejuvenated) was to have a completely blank mind. We worked during the class to breath deeply, imagining all the stresses and worries being expelled with each exhale. During shavasana, I was usually aware that my mind was noisy. I was distracted by the buses starting and stopping in front of the building, how if I moved my palm slightly on my mat, it made that soft sticky sound, and that my breath was much more shallow than I realized. There were only a few times when I felt truly at peace and clear-headed during shavasana. And when that happened, it was amazing. Those were the best classes.
I didn’t achieve a clear head during yoga today. I’m assuming it was because it’s been years since I’ve done a downward dog or a sun salutation. I don’t think I turned inward once. I think it was because it was a new situation. I was aware of the smallness of the fitness studio and began to wonder how they held classes in a such a small space. Then I noticed the trees outside and realized it was windier than I remebered. And the cars on the street – they were driving fast, offering a sharp contrast to the stillness of the bodies in the room. And the whispery flute music playing over the speakers was distracting since every other song seemed to be a variation on Pachelbel’s canon. At the end of the class, my body felt much better, but my head was still all over the place.
It was so unsatisfying. I had woken up with such a clear head, but as the morning had worn on, it had gotten cluttered by the day’s plans and things that needed to get done. I felt off balance in such a strange way – much like when your body is exhausted and your mind is racing or vice versa (which is worse in my opinion) – when you’re mentally exhausted but your body is awake.
I really did enjoy it though. I’d like to do this more regularly. Ideally I would like to do it daily, but I doubt that will happen. I’ll shoot for a couple times a week at least, then maybe it will just become a part of my day on it’s own.
Anyway, namaste from my couch to you, wherever you are.