3 Things I Love About Yoga (& 2 Caveats)

I was thinking about mixing up my workout routine but then the yoga studio I like had a summer sale and I bought another pass… so I returned and am now super sore after a month hiatus and also have some thoughts upon returning:

Yoga Is Awesome Because

  1. The body remembers. In the same way that your body quickly develops a deep response to traumatic events (for a light example: jumping every time you see a stick on the ground after you’ve ran into a rattlesnake), it can also build an strong response to healthy experiences. I won’t say one of these responses is “positive” and the other “negative” because I think both responses to threatening and non-threatening situations are your body’s way of protecting itself, which is always a good thing. I used to do handstands all the time in social settings (camping trips, barbecues, etc) and for a while I thought I was just attention-needy, but now I know it’s because my body feels comfortable, strong, and fun when I do a handstand and those feelings help with my social anxiety. Now that I know this I can just take a couple deep breaths and align my posture a little bit (I think in woo-woo terms, this has to do with “chakras”, so whatever you want to call it is fine) instead of acting like a crazy gymnast and causing a scene. Yoga is great because you have agency, here — you’re the one moving your body into a position where it will trigger feelings that are helpful for you. Beyond that, though, I’m finding that yoga builds an awareness that lasts, doesn’t go away in the same way like you get atrophied when you don’t run for 2 months. Yoga teachers always say “if you have this pose in your practice” like it’s a trading card, something you possess & own — and I get it now: once you’re aware of new, small parts of your body, you can access them all the time, even when you’re “out of shape.” It gives me a lot of hope for staying healthy in the future!
  2. Body equity. I get nervous when exercise seems like a class issue — it takes money and time to join a gym, money and time to go climb mountains, etc. I love yoga because it delivers a kind of body equity: anyone can do yoga anywhere, regardless of their physical location or physical ability. People who can’t travel or are immobile for some reason or another can still use yoga to connect with parts of themselves in ways that make you feel like you’re on top of a mountain or winning a marathon. I love going to a yoga class and seeing people in all different shapes and sizes in all different forms of any given pose, because everyone is experiencing the same level of growth no matter where they’re at. Everyone is working on tiny little parts of themselves a little bit at a time. Plus, you can do yoga on the internet for free — no need to go buy Lululemon pants and a fancy studio membership.
  3. The invisible becomes visible. While part of the magic is, as I mentioned above, that yoga is about these tiny unseen changes inside of you, the other part of the magic is that at some point you actually do change and become different. Yoga is really transformative in this slow, true way I think we really miss out on in our western culture where we just want to snap our fingers and have something appear. After six or seven months of stretching your hamstrings, you can actually touch your toes; after eight or nine years of working on your balance, you can actually do crow. I like that there’s no rush; I like that you can take your time until you’re ready; I like the feeling of surprise where your body tells you you’re ready before you even think or know it in your head.

Yoga Isn’t The End-All-Be-All Because…

  1. Music and emotionI feel really connected in yoga class and have really strong emotional reactions not unlike the way I did in church growing up, and largely I think this has to do with the music they play in my studio (they do a really good job of it!). It’s worth noting that when I think about yoga, I think about it largely in comparison to my other major community spiritual experience: evangelical Christianity, where you sang songs and opened your heart and got swept up in emotions and connected with the Lord. I don’t think this is bad necessarily — I think that all our senses should be recognized and used in connecting with greater things outside of us. I do know that for myself sometimes it was confusing figuring out where I was just really emotionally connecting to a feeling and where I was understanding or learning or growing or becoming better. It’s like when you go to Christian summer camp and you’re like “I LOVE JESUS SO MUCH” but then you go and almost get pregnant. It’s why we have movies like Saved!  There’s reasons people will pay thousands of dollars to go see Beyonce but it’s hard to get people to go to church — music is a powerful force for opening up deep parts of our being and connecting us to others (this country song explains the contemporary vibe well). I was worried that the reasons I got into yoga were just the same fanatic tendencies for why I was really into evangelical Christianity, and that freaked my out because it meant I was just transferring my same issues into a different spot instead of actually changing and growing. So now I’m doing what I’m doing but trying to keep all these things in mind — enjoy the music, feel my feelings, stay a little stoic and remember that there’s more out there than me.
  2. People are people. I think for a while, when I first got disillusioned with my churchy upbringing, I was mad and disappointed that some people there I experienced were hypocritical or not genuine or mean or frustrating. In looking for other communities to connect with (which I think I do more subconsciously than anything), I’ve kept my eyes out for the opposite of that — a place where the people who suck to people who don’t ratio is a lot different, a place where everyone is great all the time or at least people really seem like they are trying to be good and do good. I wanted, like we all want, a utopia, where everyone is awesome. And I still want that but the whole “we’re human” thing keeps proving truer than true whereever I go. Yoga bros, cougars, people who smell… they’re all part of it, just like creepy pastors and kids who won Bible verse spelling bees. Who am I to judge, especially when I’m sweating puddles and feeling overproud and falling over and farting in class too? There’s something beyond trying to get better or be good at yourself or at things, and it’s learning how to be with each other, even when we’re weird and different.

Alright, I’m off to soccer playoffs. Happy Sunday! 🙂 Namaste.

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