Sunday, March 16, 2008

Confession from the yoga mat

the worst part of every yoga class is, hands down, the breathing. i understand the theory behind it. i'm a teacher too: you always need some sort of transition from the world beyond to the task at hand. and when it comes to bodywork, and especially the spirit-infused bodywork of yoga -- well, breathing just makes sense. of course you start with the breath.

but i gotta tell you, i hate it.

it's not like i don't try. i cross my legs and straighten my back. i allow my shoulders to relax and my chest to rise. i feel my spine like a long string of pearls. i close my eyes. i visualize The Breath of Life, i ponder the miracle of the pulmonary system (not in those terms, i use appropriately mystical terminology), and i feel:


everybody else in the class seems serene. focused. even occasionally transported. i know, because i peek. they love to breathe. they groove on it. their bellies fill and their bellies empty and sometimes they smile. they feel at one with the universe. meanwhile, over on my purple mat, things are not going well. my feet are cramping. my anklebones hurt. my neck is stiff and i'm trying not to fart. worst of all, this breathing is having exactly the opposite mental effect than it's supposed to. instead of dwelling in the present, i'm becoming panicky about the future. i can't help listing the number of important things i could be doing with this time. a reckless multi-tasker, i generally breathe while i answer emails. you know, simultaneously.

when we finally, finally start to move, it's a relief beyond words. gingerly i unpretzel myself and before i know it, i'm lost in the bodywork. is there anything more satisfying than a really challenging pose? i'm amazed that i can wring out an inner organ, recalibrate my skeleton, and hover just a few inches off the ground on a good chaturanga day. i find relief in the exertion, and knowledge. every once in a while i get a bodily glimpse of what an asana is supposed to be like -- what it's supposed to "do" -- and i comprehend from the inside out. realization doesn't come at me in the usual way, like a cosmic baseball to the head ("suddenly, it hit me!"), but spreads like a pool inside me. i can't even pinpoint an origin. i just get it; i know.

at those glorious moments, the distinction between mind and body shimmies just enough that i can imagine what it might be like to sit quietly and follow my breath.

No comments: