I am a pretty casual yoga practitioner.
I enjoy it and have experienced its transformative properties, but I’m not a devotee. I want to be the kind of person who loves it, who can’t live without it, who feels like it is a life force that runs through the entirety of her being.
But I’m not.
Not yet, at least.
I know so many people for whom life begins and ends with the practice of yoga, but it hasn’t yet affected me in that way. (I’m still holding out for that moment when it all clicks.) I enjoy a class now and then, and I even go through phases where I get hooked for a while, but it inevitably fades.
I’m feeling particularly guilty about this right now, because I’m trying to encourage myself back into a period of yoga addiction.
As you may have guessed, it’s not going as well as I had hoped.
It started as an unofficial New Year’s resolution. I tend not to make New Year’s resolutions because of my incredible propensity to break them, but in the back of my mind I did register a gentle suggestion to myself.
Do more yoga.
But it was a should more than a want. It was something I felt that I was supposed to do, rather than a true desire that came from within. My motivation was external, not internal.
Needless to say, I have not yet been to a yoga class in the current calendar year.
As a result, every time I walk by my neglected mat, it seems to glare at me with a look of abandonment.
I have thought about going. Many times, in fact. But there was always a reason. At the top of that list was that fact that I don’t have a good class to go to. And that is true. I have been looking for a good yoga class for a while now, but have yet to find the right one.
See, I was spoiled in college. I had the perfect arrangement. For a mere three dollars a class, I could practice twice a week with a lovely woman named Francesca, courtesy of the yoga club. I loved those classes, and have not come anywhere close to that kind of consistency in my practice since.
It’s been almost three years now since I graduated, and I’ve tried a couple different things. None of them exactly fit the bill, but they’ve been holding me over until I find my match.
>> Gym yoga: I’m a member at the only gym near me with a pool (the fancy one), which has an appropriately extensive list of classes. But they’re meant to be exercise classes, and they’re more about the body than the mind. Plus, they’re often full of size-two soccer moms who wear designer spandex and probably have toy dogs. Not really my scene.
>> Aerial yoga: Part yoga, part circus training. It’s unconventional, but every so often I like to indulge my inner acrobat. Kicks my butt every time, but you can’t beat the hanging inversions. I’m not sure I could go regularly, but it’s definitely worth a try if you can get to a city.
>> DVD yoga: I’ve picked up a couple videos here and there, but I’ve never really gotten into them. They get very predictable after a few run-throughs, and I get bored. There’s no group energy! I have to sustain myself. Also, my living room carpet is a less-than-ideal surface to practice on.
Of course the one option I haven’t tried may be the most reasonable—signing up at a studio. They’re just so expensive… but you get what you pay for. I think mostly I haven’t gone because I’m afraid I might love it, and I’m not sure my bank account could handle that. Where is the yoga club when I need it?
So when I don’t want to do yoga with fitness fanatics, or schlep to Manhattan, or do the same video for the 78th time, I make excuses. I tell myself I have work to do, I’m too tired, it’s snowing, I ate too much at lunch, my time would be much better spent cleaning. I pretend that life gets in the way.
But that’s just what I’ve been telling myself. That isn’t the real reason.
A wonderful teacher of mine once told me that yoga is the practice of dealing with the consequences of being yourself. I’ve always thought that was a beautifully simple and eloquent way of explaining it.
Besides challenging our bodies and opening our minds, yoga forces us to really live with ourselves in a way that we are not accustomed to doing on a day-to-day basis. It asks us to have honest relationships with our true selves, and embrace those selves exactly as they are.
And if that is the case, which I believe it is, then I’m not avoiding yoga. Yoga has nothing to do with it.
I’m avoiding myself.
I’m avoiding my intolerance of imperfection. I’m avoiding the fact that I’m disappointed in myself for being out of shape. I’m avoiding the doubt that will inevitably sneak up on me when I get there and realize that I’m a little rusty.
I’m avoiding the neck that’s sore and the ankle that’s twisted and the legs I haven’t shaved. I’m avoiding the laundry I haven’t done and the blocks that I misplaced. I’m avoiding feeling fat that day. I’m avoiding my fear of failure, or even worse, maybe my fear of accomplishment too.
I’m avoiding my own discomfort, which for me is an all too easy cycle to get lost in. And even though I know that about myself, I still get caught up in it. Sometimes I still let myself hide from pain and anxiety and judgement.
But I’d like to promise myself (in print this time, so I’m accountable) not to do that so often.
And at the very least, to let myself realize what’s happening—it’s not about yoga, or whatever I think it is. It’s about me. Me and my discomfort.
The beautiful thing about yoga (which I would remember more clearly if I could get myself to a class) is that it simultaneously evokes those feelings and cures me of them. It brings about physical discomfort, then offers spiritual peace. It hurts, but it also heals.
So that is my mission now. To try and remind myself that life is not perfect, to understand that it is okay to feel my own pain, to let myself fall down and get back up.
To not only practice yoga, but to practice life.
Caroline Scherer is finding her way in the world. She is a thinker, a dreamer, a writer, and an old soul. She enjoys, but is not very good at yoga, and is feeling guilty about maybe wanting to reevaluate her vegetarianism. She is also an increasingly less recent graduate of Skidmore College, but pretends otherwise. Nowadays, she uses her liberal arts education to work at an independent bookstore and navigate the strange world of post-graduate underemployment. She is an avid swimmer, crossword puzzle enthusiast and dog lover.
Like elephant Yoga on Facebook.
Ed: Brianna Bemel