I didn’t know it, but I do yoga, sortof....for my health and my writing.
Growing up, I was surrounded by notions of everything black and white; meat and potatoes. Anything else was just wrong - and weird. Girls took dance lessons for exercise and boys played football (we were a house of three girls), and anything other than that was considered ‘woo woo’ – especially yoga.
My own ways of thinking and opinions blossomed with adulthood, my eyes opened to the world around me - or so I thought. I still kinda thought yoga was…’woo woo.’
In the wee hours of 4:30 am, I go for walks/jogs for overall health, sanity, energy and focus. I stretch before and after, waking my body, my mind, and my limbs, readying me for another day – another workout. The early morning brisk exercise helps me sort out my thoughts, and very often gives me ideas or direction for my writing. My post-exercise stretch helps me center my breathing, relaxing and easing my muscles after a vigorous workout. I then get to the laptop and write. Both these happen whether rain or shine, tired or cranky, or sore or blank.
At the grocery store one night, I dashed by the magazine stand and the bright pink cover of the latest issue of Yoga Journal Magazine (December 2011) caught my eye. Procrastinating going home and continuing laundry, and given that I had already flipped through most other magazines the previous nights (I go to the store A LOT), I learned that not only could I use a few stretches shown – some specific for a bad back, like mine – but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that….I had a lot to learn.
When I disregarded everything advertised on the pages – the wispy yoga clothes, the ‘different’ yet healthy food, the free-spirited hair-do’s, the tropical yoga resorts in other time zones – I realized I had been doing yoga all along, but in my own way. Exercising in the fresh air gives me mental clarity, erasing negativity, while stretching before and after settles my mind fostering creativity. And, sometimes, I eat healthier - except for all the chocolate.
And when I finally crawl into bed at the end of the day, my mind still sometimes racing, I think about my walk the next morning. I visualize one of my various routes; each curve of the road, each house, hill and landmark – kind of like meditating.
In an article titled ‘Chair Pose’ in the Basics section of the magazine, author Annie Carpenter writes:
In Sanskrit the word for dedicated practice is abhyasa. It is the act of making an effort to reach a goal, wholeheartedly and consistently over time. In yoga, this implies discipline, but it is also a movement towards effortlessness. ‘Practice’ means staying aware of the present moment. This awareness is quickly lost if you get too interested in achieving a pose. Effortlessness arises when you let go of the outcome of practice. You have to make yourself show up, which is hard, but if you stay interested in the practice itself rather that the goal, effortlessness will come.
For a writer, how true this is! Yes, the goals are important, but the act of even showing up – of doing it – and practicing, will make the journey towards the goal effortless. This mindset has helped me not only in keeping up with my exercise regime, but also with my continual writing.
Does this mean I have been following the yoga Sanskirt abhyasa all along? Had I been doing ‘woo woo’ yoga all this time and didn’t even know it?
Yoga isn’t about the wispy clothes or hair, or the fancy resorts. My living room floor is my mat; my neighbourhood my tropical resort. My yoga is what is practiced and meditated every morning as I lie on the floor, clock the miles, and write the words - rain or shine. Who cares what it’s called. And I’ll do the upward facing dog pose my own way, thank you very much.