Since I started going to yoga in May, I’ve been keeping a journal of my experiences with it. Nothing long, just a few sentences per class. So far, my notes vacilate between small moments of accomplishment and periods of intense frustration. The worst student of yoga in all the land in one entry, a pupil with potential the next.
Yoga reminds me of the initial struggle to speak a completely new language, when all the vocabulary, sentence structure, and pronunciation is unfamiliar. I began yoga not knowing even basic movements, and followed the teacher’s instruction as best I could without falling over (or sometimes faling over). Like forming a good sentence, I’m just beginning to glimpse how I put the pieces of each pose together to form a complete posture (and still falling sometimes).
Many times I have trouble executing correctly, but when I open to it, I understand how I might reach a new place if I practice. In a constructive mindset, I can see what I’m doing well, and consider the areas that would benefit from more attention. Other times, exasperation overwhelms, and I return from class defeated.
At times yoga also reminds me of how I learned to ride a bike. As a child, I was obsessed with riding without training wheels. I dedicated hours to wheeling my bike around, tipping this way and that, trying to muster the courage to go fast enough to lift up my feet and pedal solo. At times I was not sure I could do it, but my yearning for the freedom of movement that only a bicycle could provide propelled me forward.
I don’t know where yoga is taking me, but I had no idea where I would go on my bike when I first turned the pedals on my own, either. I had no inkling of all the ways that mastering a second language would shape my friendships and my world view.
It exasperates me that I still cannot brush my toes with my fingers and my twists often give me the urge to yell out “Timber!” Still, my body grows stronger through steady practice, and I’ve begun to see physical changes in my abdomen, arms, and hips.
My mind must still to concentrate on the pose at hand, and I see small ways this focus changes how I approach the time outside of class. Yoga is slowly enhancing my ability to step back in the moment and consider situations and interactions. I’m slightly more at ease because of this (although still the same high-strung me, have no doubt).
I’m also discovering that yoga tantalizes with significant moments of learning and accomplishment, too. This week, a sense of glory akin to what I felt when I first learned to ride a bike rushed through me when I held a headstand for the first time in decades!
I used to like doing headstands as a kid, and like a lot of the playing we do as children, I stopped doing them. But inversions are healthy for us, and I am grateful to yoga for reminding me of postures like headstands.
While my hands don’t reach my toes yet, my sense of balance, core strength, and willingness to try have increased. After five months of regular yoga practice, this weekend I saw headstand within reach. I felt it.
Returning from class and fueled with ambition, I practiced at home. The private space away from the group increased my courage and determination. I found a spot by a pillar, and began to kick my legs up one after the other, time after time.
My heels glanced against the pillar behind me and then suddently I was holding a headstand! Incredulous, I dropped my legs down so I could try again and prove that it wasn’t a fluke. Again, my legs rose above me and I confidently held the pose. Headstand!
I still can’t figure out what the end goal with yoga is. I suppose it does not need to be defined, or perhaps should not be defined. Overall, my body feels more open and healthy.
Time in a yoga studio is delicious sanctuary from all the crap of the day-to-day, even though I imagine that the cycle of frustration to small accomplishments will continue. In between these will be blissful moments like this week’s headstand that take me back to riding a bike without training wheels for the very first time.