I'm meeting a friend for a yoga class. It's not normally a class I would take since it's beyond my level of competency--this is my seventh week of yoga so 'competent' is a very relative term. The nice thing about yoga is that someone who has been practicing for ten years can do the same pose I can do and we can both get something out of it. The other nice thing about the yoga classes I take is that if you find something difficult or painful you're supposed to Not Do It. Do something else, or just go into a neutral pose called Child's Pose until they move on to something else. It's not supposed to hurt. Well, sometimes it hurts in that stretch a muscle way, and I'm often sore the next day, but it doesn't hurt in that hurting oneself way.
Since I started yoga, I feel as if I've gotten something back that I had lost, in terms of my relationship with the world. I bend better, move better, feel better, can do stuff I took for granted before I got sick. That's all really nice. It's also a cliche, but like sex, when it happens to you it's different, better, cooler. In fact, my whole experience of yoga is one big yoga cliche. Reduction in anxiety, improvements in general health, better workout than I expected, yadda yadda yadda. Except of course since it's my anxiety that's reduced, the experience is anything but cliche here at the micro level. Still it's hard to talk about without sounding like a dork. Yoga changed my life! Everyone should do yoga! My day to day existence is significantly altered in amazing ways!
They still say appalling new age things in yoga. I took a class where we concentrated on our back muscles. (That's a good thing, actually. When I told my doctor I was taking yoga he said he often tells men in their forties that if they want to avoid back surgery, they should start taking yoga right now.) The teacher started talking about how we would be lifting our palate. Yeah, we would be lifting the roof of our mouth. And when we did that, our breath energy (our prana) would circulate down our spine to our sitting bone and then come back up the front of our body to our heart. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But part of the practice for me is giving it a go no matter how loony it sounds, and that particular session taught me a great deal. I concentrated on lifting my palate and tried to feel the energy circulating. And I did the poses better. My back did better, I used my muscles in my back and stomach in a whole new way and stopped using my arms to support myself. Okay, trust me, without getting into specifics, I just found the idea of lifting my body from the roof of my mouth to be a really good way to get me to do stuff better. So I thought about it. Yoga is old and over the time its been practiced, people have found ways of thinking and talking that are very effective at communicating to other people how to do things that are kinesthetic and hard to describe. But when I listen, take these things seriously, and try to do them, when I practice yoga, I find myself feeling better and doing better and able to do all sorts of stuff I wouldn't have expected I could do.
In yoga, the teacher will often ask us to try something that I think, for good an obvious reasons, I may not be able to do. On Tuesday, the teacher asked us to perform a variation of Side Plank Pose. I can't do a push-up. But in yoga, I figure I'll just try. If I can't do it, I can't do it. If I look stupid, I look stupid. So I did it. Pretty? Probably not. Satisfying? Quite.
I'm kind of nervous about going to a more advanced class tonight, but I figure, I'll just try it. Hard for me to do that. I don't mind failure (or I wouldn't be a writer) but I prefer to do it in private. So hey, I'll have to face my own limitations and my ego and yadda yadda yadda. Like I said, it's a cliche, except when it's happening to me.