April 15, 2011

You Call Yourself a Yogi?

Hell yeah I do!

Photo: Grand Velas Resort

When I was in high school I fell in love with a song by K’s Choice called “Not An Addict.” There was something about the melody and the singer’s voice that was so sexy and rhythmic that put me in a different world. Being a freshman I didn’t exactly know what the song meant except the blatant message about drugs. I thought it was pretty badass. I wasn’t into drugs but couldn’t hit replay enough. For a period of time I was in fact addicted to that song, among other things.

I’ve heard people say over the years that some people have addictive personalities and a predisposition to become addicted to things or behaviors.  This made sense to me seeing how some of my friends smoked cigarettes and had parents that did too. Did they learn this from watching, or was there a genetic reason why? I can only speculate and draw from my own experiences and can say without a doubt that I am an addict. Sarah Bettens croons in “Not An Addict,”

It’s not a habit, it’s cool I feel alive, if you don’t have it you’re on the other side, I’m not an addict, maybe that’s a lie.

I’m old enough to know that if I were to say otherwise it would be a lie. In fact, as I remember it my addictions started in early childhood.

I sucked my thumb obsessively until threatened at age eight that if I didn’t stop I would have my other obsession, my blanket, thrown away. The blue knitted blanket (think Schroeder from Peanuts) was so important that it had to be cut into four pieces to prevent a meltdown if it were forgotten at a family member’s house. I gave up the thumb, but still keep a small swatch of that blanket under my pillow.

Photo: Steven Depolo

There was a year when I refused to eat anything but Chef Boyardee cheese ravioli for dinner. My grandmother, a woman who prided herself on balanced meals of beef, vegetables and starch, thought that the canned dinner was embarrassing. I tried to convince her that it had protein in the cheese and the tomato sauce was a vegetable. Ravioli is a carb if I ever saw one, but she never bought it and we agreed to disagree. As long as she could try to convince me otherwise every night at dinner.

I think food addiction itself is an odd thing. For one, I can’t really see how it’s an actual addiction because it’s something you have to do, whether you blindly crave it or just want to stave off hunger. Without going into a debate about food addiction I’ll just say that I had been on both ends when it comes to the consumption of food. I was labeled anorexic in the 7th grade, leading to a two month stay at what was once called Newington Children’s Hospital. Then later on in high school I swung the other way when I couldn’t go a day without a Friendly’s hot fudge sundae.

I am also pretty much addicted to exercise. I don’t know if it’s the endorphins, the sweat, or release I get from the workout, but I have to do it every day or I feel like I’m missing something. Some people think I’m a little off when it comes to exercise and some people say it could be a lot worse, like heroin for instance.

I also have regimented routines that I’m addicted to. Every day I do laundry at a certain time, dishes, yoga and nothing comes between me and my nightly bag of animal crackers. The working out probably balances the carb frenzy which brings me to my point, balance.

I have a hard time applying the concept of moderation to my life. I don’t drink often, but when I do I can’t seem to have just one or two drinks. Just like I can’t enjoy a handful of cookies. I can eat until my stomach is distended. I can’t organize a single drawer in the kitchen without the overwhelming urge to clean out the whole downstairs. Of course it works the other way too. If there is one room that’s in disarray I get that all or nothing mind frame. I might as well let the whole place go to pot.

I haven’t cut my hair in over three years because I know, from past experience, that as soon as I sit in stylist’s chair I’ll get so excited about a small change that a small change won’t be good enough. I won’t be happy until I have something dramatic and then for next year lament that choice.

Which somehow brings me to yoga.  I’m pretty open about my life which usually leads me to want to stick my foot in my mouth. Despite all the yoga positions that have been thrown at me I still can’t bring the extremity near my pie hole. If I’m around people, especially people who don’t do yoga, I encounter an attitude of, “Isn’t that against yoga?” or “would so and so approve?” So and so being any minor celebrity yoga teacher who’s video I happen to be using at the moment. That, being whatever behavior I disclose to them: eating the wrong thing, not recycling, swearing, yelling, fighting and giving in to my various addictions that I would say go against the Yoga Sutras. Specifically the yamas or self-restraints.

Photo: Erin Vermeer

I am self-indulgent and extreme. I can arguably say that I’m harmful to myself, if not others I encounter, and up to this point have not been completely honest about it. While I’m at it, I’ll throw stealing in there since I have been thieving from others and stealing the bliss of a balanced life from myself.

So despite not following the guidelines of a thoughtful, peaceful and wise person, do I still call myself a yogi?

Hell yeah! I am flawed for sure, but you have to start the journey somewhere. Maybe I start on the mat and let go of my routine and allow for some breath. Or maybe I begin to break down the critic in my head that insists that the world will fall apart if I don’t give in to every impulse and habit. Guess I’ll have to see.

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