Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Body is a playground," or, How I got into Yoga

I must confess: I've become a Bikram traitor! Again! Heheheh.

OK, I know there's really no such thing. But I admit to feeling a little naughty when I walked back into my Bikram studio after taking a few days off to try some vinyasa classes. I have been having a great time at this studio. I've been humbled, I've been uplifted, but mostly, I've been reminded that, as my newly-favorited self-help guru Byron Katie says, "The body is a playground."

I have not shared much about my history with yoga on this blog, but my time at these classes inspired me to reflect on how I came to it. I've been doing yoga since I was 16. I can hardly believe it--that means I've been doing yoga for 13 years! I can actually say I have a history of doing yoga now.

When I was 16, I joined a gym to impress my then-best friend. She wanted to "get in shape," and I wanted her to like me more. (Typical E!) She wanted to take step classes and lift weights. I was drawn to one of the (only) two yoga classes the gym offered.

(**I should mention that I do not come from a gym-rat family. My dad golfed and played racquetball, but no one ran or worked out for the sake of staying healthy. I was never overweight as a kid, but I was always un-athletic. I couldn't touch my toes, do ten sit-ups, or run a mile. I surely failed all those presidential fitness tests--you can forget the competitive sports. No, seriously, I'm still trying to forget tetherball.)

I finally got up the courage to go yoga without my friend. From my first class, I was hooked. After all those years of awful P.E. classes and feeling lame because I couldn't even touch my toes, I finally found this way in. And it was all for me. It didn't matter that my hamstrings and shoulders were tight, that I couldn't balance for shit, couldn't breathe right, or that I didn't know what I was doing. It was like someone had given me this permission, this key to enjoy how I felt, regardless of how "good" I was actually doing in comparison to others. Body is truly a playground when you're open to it, no matter how you feel.

Wouldn't you know it? That key has continued opening doors. I was an introverted kid--still am, in many ways--but I don't doubt yoga gave me the ability to stand a little more confidently on my own. Of course, I touched my goes. My friendship with that mean gym girl dissolved. I started looking forward to school, rather than hating the world when my alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. to wake me up. I made cool, new, happy friends through that yoga community. I even convinced my mom to let me go on a yoga retreat in Mexico when I was 17, something I never would have wanted to do if I hadn't known yoga's ability to open me up, to tug gently at the tension binding me together.

I remember overhearing my mom, who had initially wondered about my new-found interest, talk on the phone to one of her friends a few months after I started yoga. "There's something different about her. She even walks straighter."

In coming back to that vinyasa style class, things are definitely a little different. It was humbling. Though I could be wrong, I doubt I'll ever see the physical progress I saw when I started at 16. But physical strength or flexibility were never really the point, were they? I needed to get myself to that yoga retreat when I was 17, and that had nothing to do with touching my toes. Who knows what other journeys await? I might become the most social person on the planet ;-)

I'm so glad I went to that new studio. Even though some of that playground equipment was rusty, it was so fun to give it another spin. After two classes there, my Bikram return was the most phenomenal class I've had in a while. I look forward to finding a new balance!

Yay, yoga!


feral chick said...

Good point about our crappy introduction to "physical fitness": all about competition and numbers! (And seriously, you had to do that presidential fitness stuff? I was hoping that had died out . . . like before you were born!)

I loathed PE as a kid, would actually injure myself to avoid it, so it's funny/sad/ironic that in my 50s I'm finally getting to *choose* to be active and push myself--but just for myself, not some graph or the popular team.

Hmmmmmmmm . . .

Yolk E said...

Heck yes, the presidential fitness test lives on. I remember they measured how far you could reach to touch your toes, pull-ups, all that crap.

Hey, better late than never! It IS sad that pretty much all of the physical fitness stuff they introduced us to was competitive. Maybe that'll change/is changing.

Dorothy said...

Tetherball should be forgotten. I dreaded tetherball day in gym. I always got hit in the face or jammed my fingers.

It's so cool that you found yoga so early in life. I bet yoga retreats would help a lot of teenagers be happier. I wish I'd found it sooner.

Yolk E said...

Oh, I am 100% with you, Dorothy. I shudder to think of tetherball :-)

I think a lot of teenagers get that community/self-betterment stuff in other ways: clubs, team sports. But for the kid who's naturally kind of a loaner (and everyone else, I reckon!) yoga retreats can be just the thing to pull them to center.

Anonymous said...

Even though I'm so grateful to have discovered yoga at 36, I so wish I had been able to discover yoga when I was younger. I'm sure it would have helped me through all those years of turmoil.

If I ever had children, I would definitely incorporate yoga in their lifestyle. It's a place to go to feel "safe"... in all ways :-)

Thanks for sharing!