Old Downward Dog, New Tricks: How I’m Namastaying Active with Yoga
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that 2016 wasn’t exactly my year. I won’t bore you with details from the dumpster fire that was my life, I will only say that 2017 brings new promises and better offerings.
About two months ago, I started doing yoga. Nothing spectacularly difficult, no stretching my legs behind my head or rooms so hot they could bake bread; just a weekly trip to the local community centre. The decision to participate in a physical activity went part and parcel with my new year’s decision to be more active, try something new and be mindful. As though my anxiety-crippled, hyper-driven mind was something I could turn off. I figured if I was going to be trapped in the fourth circle of cerebral hell, I might as well get some physical activity out of it.
I never played team sports. Ever. I wasn’t coordinated, athletic or particularly competitive, and nobody wanted to coach that kid. After being told repeatedly that I wasn’t any good at sports and being chosen last for every team (track and field days were and remain my idea of purest hell), I just stopped trying. I did, however, get very good at coming up with elaborate ways to get out of PhysEd. I refined the art of excuses, coming up with reasons why I shouldn’t move my body and get active, which is fine when you’re in your twenties and can lose 5 pounds just by thinking about it. When I reached my 40’s, I realized that:
- a) I had to get active not just for my sake, but for my two young boys, who could out-run a cheetah and re-define the Doppler effect.
- b) Muscle memory only occurs when you’ve used your muscles in the first place.
Yoga is hard. Apparently, Namaste is Hindu for “I’m going to calmly and gently kick your ass.” Who knew that holding poses named after nature and cute animals could cause you to break a sweat? Oh, and you have to breathe. I’m still working on that part. I may have passed out once or twice.
And so we circle back to mindfulness. Yoga forced me to be in my brain in such a way that I had to focus and pay attention. I had to compartmentalize my thoughts and be present. You cannot, just cannot do tree pose if your brain has already jumped ahead to the groceries you need to buy or remembering to call the dentist. The only times I didn’t wobble or fall over were when I was focused, breathing and listening. After just a few months I was calmer, writing more and, to be honest, yelling less.
I have no aspirations to become a career athlete. There are no bus tours to an ashram in my future. I may never lap my kids at the park, but at least my back no longer hurts when I pick them up. I’ve found a form of physical activity that doesn’t hand out ribbons or require sticks, balls or pucks. I may not always look forward to going, but I’m always glad I went. Namaste!