I will never go back to the gym.
I will never go back to the gym. Or to Crossfit, HIIT, Body-Pump, Body-Attack or Body-Something. I am never standing in front of a mirror or facing people from a piece of equipment, doing mindless repetitions, gazing awkwardly, knowing we are all there for one reason: To look good.
I will never go back to do four sets of 20 sit-ups and four rounds of leg lifts. Why would I? Why would I have a one hour dialogue about inner self-improvement with myself when yoga teaches me about self-acceptance? Why would I play in my head music, or words for self-motivation, when creating and loving is the only real motivation, which I can find more of in dancing, or martial arts, or in transforming a community through sports teams (and not in deadlifting)?
Why would I ever again reduce my human capacity, which thrives in relating to a composer and a choreographer through self-expression and spirituality, rather than expecting happiness through routinely worked and toned muscles?
No. I need to grow my heart, not just burn fat.
Every single time I walk past a gym, I cannot help but feel liberated and real because I am outside of the cage. I also feel a bit sad for the people I see building iron buns and guns because I know that their souls and spirits are left undermined somewhere deep under all that fast metabolism and skin.
A yogi’s body will never look like a crossfit body. We come in all sorts of packages: Long and tight, thick and flabby, squared and naturally muscular. But we are all strong. We melt our hearts to the Earth, we release hip and psoas muscles and collective emotions, we cleanse our throat and detoxify our solar plexus, our hands connect to the heavens and our feet root deeply to the center of the Earth.
We expand our lungs and spread our wings. As a consequence, we are strong, we do not break, but we bend. We focus, we let go, we wait, we listen to our bodies and accept today’s particular physical limits. No day is the same in my yogi body, nor in my heart and mind. On the mat, over each of these moving meditation sessions, I will reflect on anger or I will intend to send love to our community. Sometimes I breathe in my own suffering and sadness and breathe out contentment and thankfulness.
We look at each other; we look into the eyes of our teacher. And we know it. We literally feel in our bodies what it is like to abide in loving-kindness for all living beings. It’s warm inside.
We are a group in the classroom, and the breath of one another reminds us to breathe individually. The OM binds us together, as each yogi travels a profound journey in our own, private, intricate, infinite world. As a result, we balance, we hold, we open, and with every exhale, we go deeper a little more than we had before.
Outside the classroom we are a community. We encourage speaking with compassion, eating with awareness, and practicing mindfulness in work and play. Animals make us company, and plants host our spirits.
We salute the sun to grab some energy and mimic birds and cats and cows to learn to move, to expand, contract, and live again.
In time, we become eager to stand with our heads or hands, to do things differently, reverse our old ways, renew our ideals, and to flip our worlds upside down. I love it. I crave it. No aerobics routine, no treadmill or elliptical, no incessant repetition ever made me feel alive.
And because I have tried aliveness, I’ll never go back to zombie mode.
I beg you, get out of there. Do ballet, do contemporary dance, kung fu, or gymnastics. Go try figure skating, arch shooting arrows, go swimming (water offers such a spiritual connection). Walk away from the mirrors and the weighs, and please, while you move your body, create. Express. Expose your heart. Travel inward. Meditate. Row. Connect. Breathe, share, OM, flow.
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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons
Photo: elephant archives