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.
I find it so hard to have the patience to do yoga. I worked up to a headstand (with my very pregnant wife inverted beside me) over 25 years ago. I don’t remember why I gave it up.
I’ve tried yoga a few times and hated every minute of it. The time just drags. I know this largely has to do with my temperament and the fact that it is so.freaking.hard. But still, there’s so often the voice in my head that says I “should” be doing yoga, that it would be “good” for me. My wife and many of my friends value it highly. Your post is the first piece I’ve read that truly helps me understand the potential value. I’m not saying I’ll try it again, but if I do, it will in no small part be because of what you’ve written here. Thank you.
It took me five months of just going and sticking with it to start to really see or understand some of the benefits. We will see what more time doing it brings… and let me know if you start going!
Awesome- keep at it- I started as well, and despite the difficulty of making a 46 year old cyclist/tradesperson’s body DO those things… I can feel the benefits of NOT moving in the same linear tracks I’ve always been in- especially in my ham strings and hips and lower back! But I definitely think there’s something breaking loose in there for the better that’s well beyond just stretching, for sure. My wife and I go to class every Friday evening, and I’d never expect that I’dve looked forward to it as much as I do to unwind from the week.
I thank you for the time you take to write about the bicycling, yoga, and other related topics. In fact your posts helped in getting a few buddies together to take the coffeeneuring challenge, as we do these coffee rides normally, but the structure and the knowledge that others are out there doing this makes it more fun.
As far as yoga is concerned I see it as a window to where I am at that time in my life. Your practice will try to come up to meet you there, but if you treat it as a failure or success each time you may be missing this. Is it possible to accept where you are in your practice, that is, however your pose, strength, etc. come to the practice, and be with that? It will change from time to time, as your physical and mental state changes. There is really no such thing as doing it “right”, rather doing it is what gives it meaning.
Always do your best! And thank you again.
This is such a helpful comment! I will attempt to embrace the “always do my best” approach as opposed to seeing it as success or failure. Until you mentioned it, I hadn’t realized how much I was characterizing it this way.
Same, the movements distinct to cycling and running are so beneficial!
3 years ago,or so, I started doing a seniors workout at the local city gym. I selected the kick boxing class as the other classes were too easy. I nailed the first part of the class but the yoga part was my down fall. I stayed in the class until the instructor quit the gym and went some where else. Tried the pound class and cycling class. Liked that but went back to a true martial arts class and out door cycling. Being a male and now 70, yoga was not my cup of tea or coffee. I am a black belt in martial arts and love the sparring and work outs we do. Keep up the yoga.
Likewise, keep up your martial arts work!
there’s something so….INTROSPECTIVE….and challenging about yoga. i am delighted to see you striking these poses.
you [and your posts] are such inspiration, and i am encouraged to keep on keeping on, with yoga AND wheels, as i read what you have to say, viewing your photos….!!
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Soon you’ll have us all yoganeuring
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I wish I were able to get into yoga and have the time to practice but each attempt and class I try, I find it’s just not right for me. I’ll keep at it until I can find the right balance as I do find it helps put me at ease.
I used to have a regular yoga practice and appreciated the way it gave me strength and more flexibility than I’d otherwise have, as a not-particularly-stretchy person who never mastered the splits or a cartwheel as a kid. It definitely stretches me mentally in giving my head a space in which to just be on my mat.
I stopped practicing for a few years, started coming back to it last year (2018), had another gap and am back at it again. This post reminds me of why.
It also reminds me of one I wrote back when I was practicing 5-6 days most weeks that I thought you’d appreciate: http://bikestylespokane.com/2011/12/08/the-yoga-of-biking-or-the-biking-of-yoga/. Yoga and bicycling are fantastic companions for body and mind.
Thanks for your comment, Barb! I have never been stretchy either, though yoga is helping to some degree and it is also helping me ward off injury. I enjoyed your post on the “Yoga of Biking…” I definitely noticed increased focus and improved breathing in my cycling as a result of yoga, though if I’m pushing the limits to get to yoga or going to arrive late I will cancel and either do a home practice or save it for another day.