October 4, 2014

What I learned from Camel Pose. ~ Carolyn Ziel

Ann Harkness/Flickr

I read an article this morning.

Unlike many of the articles that show up in my Facebook newsfeed offering seven, 10 or even 14 steps to being a better person, this article narrowed in on one specific action: camel pose in yoga.

According to the self-proclaimed “dashingly handsome” acupuncturist who wrote the article, because I don’t flow into the yoga position camel with ease, I’m not aware, or grounded or open. I am closed, defensive, hunched; I have tight shoulders and my hips don’t swivel.

I didn’t know hips were supposed to swivel.

I’m assaulted daily. Articles are tweeted, stumbled upon and then shared on my Facebook feed and in my inbox. They have titles like, “5 Ways to Love the Present No Matter How Scared You Are,” “7 Things to Eliminate From Your Diet Immediately” or “What Your Poop is Telling You About Your Body” (which was quite the informative info-graphic).

They drive me over the edge.

One article might list all the ways I’m not connecting with my husband and another will give me tools and tips on how to be more intimate in my relationship. As I read each article I can only come to one conclusion: I am doing practically everything wrong, from sex, to eating, to sleeping to pooping.

They give me steps on how to find more joy, cleanse my colon, eat more greens, enjoy simple pleasures and have better sex. Although, that last one, well, even if a person’s having great sex, it couldn’t hurt to be even better, right?

Here’s the thing: I’m the one reading them. I’m drawn to them. I’m looking at these articles and forgetting to take into account that the writer doesn’t know me. They say every body is different and I have to remember that this is true. Some bodies need more rest than other bodies; some need more meat, some want more sex. Not everyone can run a marathon or do camel pose.

I can’t do camel. It hurts. Not the good kind of working my muscles and making them stronger hurt, but the bad kind, the I-might-break-in-two kind.

I just can’t bend over in that position. Actually, I don’t like to bend over backwards and twist myself into something I’m not in order to strive for this abstract goal of perfection.

So, now I’m going to list some things that I’ve learned about myself from reading these articles and writing this one.

Please note: these are things I’ve learned about myself and I’m sharing them with you because as a writer that is what I do: share what I’ve learned. I’m not saying that they will ring true for you. If they do, I’m glad. If they don’t, that’s okay too, because you and I are different bodies.

Stop trying to be perfect. Oy. I have spent a lifetime trying to be Cher. Really, that is my idea of perfection. I grew up in the 70’s with Twiggy and Cher: straight and narrow and flat were all the rage.

Guess what? I’m short and curvy and curly. How many times have I met gals with perms? A bunch. Straight haired girls want curls, flat chested girls want breasts, and me, the curvy girl, I wanted to wear a tube top and have long straight jet-black hair.

Perfection shouldn’t be my goal. Instead, it should be self-acceptance.

There is only active balance. Balance by nature isn’t still. When I was a kid in camp I took gymnastics. We’d walk the high beam. That took concentration, focus and care. I had to look forward with each step. Although I was balanced on the thick shiny wood, even when I was standing still in a pose, I was not still. I was active and moving with a wiggle here, an adjustment there.

This is balance.

It is an active process that is always, at least in my life, changing. Balance is found in the stillness of my morning meditation, in the pages of my journal, in an afternoon spin class. Balance is a process, it is active and alive and ever changing.

Find out what works for me. Life is is trial and error. Some things work and some don’t, and just because something doesn’t work for me it doesn’t make me wrong. It just doesn’t work. Whether it’s an article, a well-meaning girlfriend or my mother telling me what to do, I have to figure it out on my own.

Besides, what works changes as I get older. What worked for me at 20 doesn’t necessarily work for me at 51. Listening to myself and really getting to know me has been quite a learning process and, at 51, I’m proud to say that I am part of the way there.

Take it in stride. That’s something that my Grandmother used to say and, I might add, not always at the most appropriate times—like at a funeral. However, she has a point.

In other words: this too shall pass. And it will. To me, it means staying centered in myself. Understanding that this is a moment in my life. That I make mistakes and I’m human just like everyone so I don’t need to be so hard on myself. I take things in stride by using my breath, keeping an open mind and open heart. I am a writer and so I write. I write poems, articles, I write journal entries. I write.

Laugh. No matter what, I laugh. I’m funny. It’s a gift I was given. The heavens decided to give me this gift and I gladly accept it. I look at life and find humor in the most challenging times. It runs in our family. It may not be appropriate for me to share this with you, but I will just the same:

My father’s tombstone reads, “Pardon me for not rising.” That’s the truth.

Here’s the thing: life is short or long, depending on your perspective, so laugh it up. Smiling, having a sense of humor and laughter just might be the best advice I can give myself and hopefully share the laugh with others.





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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Ann Harkness/Flickr

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