Reclaiming Yoga

I started my run at #30DaysOfYoga counting on the power of repetition. It worked as I'd hoped, restoring yoga to a regular place in my life.

But I think it worked for more reasons than simple repetition. It seems to me that my connections to yoga over the years laid a foundation I could return to.

That may be one of the secrets to getting a habit back: Having its roots in something that's a part of you. If you're tryinig to develop a brand-new habit it seems to me tying it to something you've loved before may give you what you need to make it stick.

My yoga interest stretches back decades. When I was a kid I read a book on yoga that belonged to Older Brother #2. I remember it as having line drawings of the asanas, a discussion of breathing, and information on advanced practices that included everting one's bowels to rinse them in the stream you should be standing in, then I guess tuck them back in somehow, or maybe draw them back in through ab strength.

Whatever it was, I didn't plan to try it. But I worked on trying to do Lotus and Tree and a few others. I memorized the Sun Salutation sequence. Even with the limberness of youth I struggled with Lotus, feeling the pinch and drag of my feet pulling at my inner thighs after I torqued my feet into place with my hands.

In high school it was episodes of Lilias, Yoga and You on Spokane Public TV after school. Lilias had a long, dark braid, a soothing voice, and a Danskin outfit of leotard and tights. This of course told me that doing yoga required special clothes, and who wouldn't want some of that?

The years passed and Jane Fonda had her effect, what with aerobics and legwarmers. Two babies and a few career moves later I started setting my alarm for 5 a.m. to have time to work out before driving (ugh) from my home in Coeur d'Alene to my job in Spokane. Some of my VHS tapes (yes, this was in the dark, dark days before apps, my children) put me through step aerobics and workouts with light weights. Others, though, gave me the gravity-defying yoga of Rodney Yee and a few others.

I didn't know about modifications and these tapes didn't give me options. So when someone popped up and down effortlessly into multiple repetitions of Upward Bow when I couldn't do more than get my butt off the ground, it was a trifle discouraging. But there were encouraging moments too, like one in which the person demonstrating Tree said not to worry if I swayed because trees sway.

Then one day I saw an event taking place at a yoga studio near campus. They were offering a juice tasting, which sounded interesting, and a class. (For the record, wheatgrass juice tastes like new-mown lawn. Not a fan.)

Live instruction took me to a whole new way of practice. Being shown modifications let me work toward the ultimate expression of a posture while seeing each modification as its own posture worth executing well. Each class brought a new insight, a subtle shift in position, a reminder to lift or drop or open. I spent a whole Saturday in a workshop going pose by pose through the Sun Salutation, breaking each one down to examine its elements and then putting them back together. The year I turned 40 I did 108 Sun Salutations at the winter solstice.

Yoga was a habit.

So when I started doing it again I had memories of what it felt like, what I could be like, to motivate me.

I might not be able to do a full bind in a side angle now -- and may never get to that level again. But I can lift from the core, roll over my toes, and remember that Down Dog does, in fact, come to represent rest rather than exertion.

I spread my fingers, distribute weight evenly and push back to take pressure off my wrists, lift my hips, drop my heels a fraction toward the ground (not that they ever really touched the floor even when I was at my best), exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

1 comment :

  1. Yoga can be freeing. I hope you are writing during this time, too. I love doing yoga with music RAV Vast


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