The other day, I ventured out of my fast-moving comfort zone and headed into the slow-moving zone of Yoga in a lovely studio by a lake. I was open-minded, mat in hand, until the door flew open from the previous class and I was hit by smell of everyone’s, shall I say, aura. After my nose adjusted, I was given a chenille carpet that I had an allergic reaction to. Itchy, watery eyes were followed by the thought that the last group was leaning, sweating, and breathing on these woven carpets which, I knew in an instant, were not 100% cotton, nor anywhere near sanitary. When I laid out my personal mat, which I had purchased to provide myself with an aire of confidence and commitment, a scent of petroleum rose from its surface, most likely from the toxic material it was made of in China.
Yin Yoga, to be exact, was the class for the day, but it wasn’t this style of yoga that made me make my definitive decision about my future and this activity, it was the fact that every position I was directed to take, made my neck, or back, or hip or shoulder ache. Now, my teacher is a wonderful teacher, and a dear friend, but I was a terrible student. She is older than I, so I can’t blame my pains simply on age. With Yin yoga, my teacher told us that one is dealing with the connective tissue not muscle in terms of concentration, so there is no need to get into the position - mainly executed on a mat - in its exact form. She knows her stuff. She’s been teaching various forms of Yoga for forty years. “If you feel the least bit of pain or twinge,” she advises, re-adjust your body to accommodate the pose for comfort and relaxation. Use the bolsters or blocks in the room to help you.” The more you do this, the sooner you will be able to accomplish greater flexibility and relaxation.” There I was with four purple Styrofoam blocks and a navy blue bolster that I am almost certain has never been laundered, in between my forehead and knees, under my hamstrings and hips, and over my mat to prop me up. The problem is that there was no pose, no matter how basic, that I took without feeling pain, props and all. If I want to spend ninety minutes relaxing in a meditative state, I’d rather read or write a book, or take a walk or a nap. I must admit that, at one point, when others had their heads down, I was peaking around to see what everyone was doing that I could not. In the process, various pairs of dirty feet stared back at me as if to say, pay attention to your chakras instead of us!
My opinion has always been that Yoga is too slow for me. Now, I know that it is also too painful for me. By now, you must be imagining my body as cumbersome and stiff, a person who should be walking with a cane. On the contrary, at sixty-something, I can dance the night away without any aches or heavy breathing, and walk for miles at a fast clip without pain or self-pity. But with Yoga, I have never felt so much pain with so little movement. Yes, I’ve had my share of multiple, minor whiplash injuries, my spine is probably not at its S-curve best after years of normal and not-so-normal wear and tear, and my type A personality doesn’t help in the let-it-all-go philosophy. Sure, I know with all that in mind I should be moving head and pelvis first into this Yoga world that my teacher says is the cure all instead of resisting this wonder non-drug. But, with my sensitive nose, and my germ-phobic ways, and my innate need to keep moving, and moving fast, I think it’s time for me to say, this is just not for me.
Contrary to what you might think, I do believe in aura, I do believe in chakras, I do believe in chi and I see god as the positive energy around and in me. If I believed in organized religion, I’d probably be a Buddhist. I guess I just would rather find my way through frenetic movement, like the whirling dervishes. Or, by hitting a boxing bag, or dancing up a storm, or walking at top speed on a treadmill or a path in a park going nowhere expect within.
So, to my dear Yoga friends who turn themselves into elegant, silent, still human pretzels, or those who are part of one big, hot sweat box of statuesque poses, I say, peace and love and flexibility wherever you find it. And I say, Namaste, which means the light in me recognizes the light within you, a lovely greeting in the Indian tradition. For me it also means, the light in me recognizes the light within you as we each find our own way to shine. Thank you, all of you who totally disagree with me but still read till the end of this story, and, thank you, thank you my dear friend and Yoga teacher-for-a-day, for inspiring one of the things I do best: write.