Anyone that knows me would attest to the fact that “still” is not a word that should appear in the top 25 adjectives that describe me. More likely attributes would include “hyperactive,” “nerdy,” and possibly “bitchcakes.”
The very idea of me taking up yoga would be laughable to any of my poor family members who had to deal with me speeding around like the Tasmanian Devil and bouncing off the walls as a child. Sorry about that, btw. Especially those broken arms, Nana. My timing sucked, royally.
When my New Year’s Resolution in January of 2009 was to take yoga classes, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly didn’t think that I’d stick with it, or anticipate the benefits that I take away from each class.
My first session was exclusively Hatha Yoga, which was what I basically expected when I signed up. Each class, we’d arrive, contort ourselves for an hour, and then spend some time meditating. I enjoyed the workout, learning some history of the poses, and especially enjoyed the rest at the end. I signed up for the second session, planning to continue my practice.
I knew when I entered the room for the second session that things were going to be drastically different. The instructor was seated on a thick pile of handmade mats, clothed in all white and wearing a turban. There was music playing, and we were each instructed to take a handout with some basics of the new form of yoga that we’d be studying.
In short, I’d “graduated” from regular Hatha yoga to Kundalini yoga, the yoga of awareness. Initially, I admit to being weirded out at some of the class rituals, but within a class or two I started to really identify with the style. For starters, each set that we perform has a specific purpose. Ironically enough, last night’s focused on the pituitary gland and is good for headaches. The majority of class is also performed with your eyes closed. This means that each participant is focused on their own actions only, not oogling other class members and seeing who’s “doing it better.”
That very mentality is part of the reason that I avoid gyms like the plague. When I moved back to our small town after college, I signed up at the local establishment in an attempt to keep in shape. Or maybe work off far too many late-night nacho runs. Either way, I would get home from work, throw on workout gear and go work up a sweat. I quickly realized the problem with this exercise plan when I couldn’t get through a workout without being approached and interrupted. I also didn’t appreciate the line of meatheads over at the smoothie bar who would park their bulgy selves and oogle the women on the treadmills and ellipticals.
Here’s the thing: when I’m working out? I don’t want to talk to you. I am sweaty, have no makeup on, and want to get out of there as fast as humanly possible. I would think that the earbuds and iPod would communicate that, but some people need a slightly firmer reminder. As my workouts extended long past their allotted time each visit, I found myself thinking “This is so not worth it.”
With yoga, I found a part of my physical routine that allows me to indulge the cranky old bat side of my personality. I arrive at class, go through the workout, and need not talk to a soul. Of course, that freedom encourages me to interact with the other participants because I want to, not because they’re being forced on me.
I love that time each week when I unroll my mat, sit down and start to focus myself for the exercises. For the only time I’m aware of, my thoughts completely slow down until I’m no longer plagued by remembering RSVPs, contacting photographers, what to make for dinner… you name it. It’s gone. For a short time each week, my world shrinks to the space behind my eyelids and the quiet tone of my teacher’s voice. I feel only the welcome stretch of muscles and the rhythm of my breathing. At the end of a set, the mat is more comfortable than any bed as I congratulate my body on a job well done.
When Army Boy and I were in the process of house-shopping, buying furnishings and moving, I took time off from my practice. I felt that I couldn’t possibly manage work, the increasingly demanding Singers schedule, yoga, and the new responsibilities of the house. I’m grateful for those months off, because now that I’ve returned to it on my terms, it’s a welcome stillness in the constant motion of my week.
On one hand, I find it ironic that someone who was previously an illustration in perpetual motion should find the practice of tranquility so fulfilling. Funny that someone who spends her day thinking and trading in words finds peace in silence. In another, sometimes the universe points us in the precise direction that we need, and it makes perfect sense.