February 23, 2016

Sometimes Going with the Flow Means Swimming Upstream—Why I Do Yoga When I Don’t Want To.

I didn’t want to attend class today.

It was five chilly degrees outside and gloomy and grey. My favorite yoga pants were in the laundry. My oatmeal wouldn’t cool quickly enough to eat before I left. I listed these excuses, and others, as I pulled on my boots and warmed up the car.

I tucked my yoga mat under my arm as my mother-in-law and daughter played with blocks on the floor. They hang out together on Sunday mornings so I can go to the class that I was dreading today. I was zero percent inclined to practice yoga, but for better or worse, I was committed.

It happened to be Valentine’s Day, and my instructor, Chenoa, ever-thematically appropriate, curated a practice that focused on the heart.

My heart, stubborn as ever, didn’t want to open. I was a little bit angry about something my husband had said. I was a little bit frustrated, not to mention tired, because my one-year-old still doesn’t sleep through the night. I was disappointed in myself for failing to practice the past few days, and I could feel this tell-tale tightness in my shoulders.

Yoga usually cautions against forcing. Yoga advocates balance and acceptance. Yoga promotes going with the flow.

Today, however, I was swimming upstream. I was pressing against my experience. I was literally dragging my feet. I was resisting change and shirking acceptance.

I couldn’t tap into the emotional core that yoga typically enlivens in me. I was just going through the motions, but at least I was moving.

As I followed Chenoa’s lead, moving carefully with my breath, I felt dizzy and almost sick. As I attended to my discomfort, out of sheer necessity, I noticed it slowly dissolving. As I created ancient shapes with my body, my shoulders could not help but soften.

Despite my resistance, my reluctant heart found some release.

All throughout the practice, I couldn’t silence my mind’s chatter. I heard a phone vibrate from across the room and became fixated on checking if it was mine. I pushed into an optional backbend and felt my ego soar when I saw everyone else in the studio still in bridge.I felt my ego bruise when I couldn’t hold half-moon pose and lost my balance.

I tried to envision my thoughts turning into bubbles that rose out of me toward the ceiling. I tried to attend to my thoughts gently, without judging, and let them pass. But I wasn’t trying all that hard, and I wasn’t doing a very good job. All the way through savasana (final relaxation), I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was going to cook for dinner or what I needed to pack for tomorrow’s outing. I just couldn’t stay present.

As I eased myself back into a seated position and bowed forward to close the class with a “Namaste,” I realized with surprise that I felt better. I felt suddenly rested. I found myself remarkably at ease.

Yoga practitioners often remind us that yoga is not just about our bodies. We are encouraged to practice yoga with our hearts, our breath and our minds. Sometimes, however, you just need to go though the motions. Sometimes you’ve got to fake it ‘til you make it. Sometimes you’ve just to let the ancient practice of asana (the physical side of yoga) do its job.

I rolled up my mat feeling very human, very humble and very alive. I am grateful that I made it to the mat today.


Author: Nico Wood Kos

Editor: Caitlin Oriel 

Image: @elephantjournal on Instagram

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Nico Wood Kos