One of my figs is to practice yoga regularly, at least once a week, for three months. I see this as a tall order, because regularity/consistency is one of my major issues in life, and because I've started and stopped yoga several times through the years.
I always feel better when I practice yoga. Always. I love doing it. I love the way I feel after I do it. I love the way it makes me feel about my body, because the focus is on strength and appreciation of one's body rather than on the size of my thighs or the lifting of my ass. So, I think that if a woman is going to exercise, yoga is just about as good as it gets.
The reasons I've stopped doing yoga include: it's hard, it requires consistency and I usually like to listen to music while I exercise, and by music I mean tragic pop music like Katy Perry and John Cougar Mellencamp.
Well, last week, I took the yoga class at our gym. It was lovely. It was gentle, and the music was soft, and I felt so competent in all of the poses. It was a stretch without being a stretch, meaning I could do everything without any trouble at all. If anything, I felt a little disappointed that it wasn't more difficult. I have yoga DVDs at home that are much harder than gym yoga. But, it was a nice break and a gentle reminder of my body.
Well, based on my expertise and ease with yoga after that official gym class, I decided to take a class today at a yoga studio. I almost didn't make it, because I had to get the kids to school, so I was rushed. I also tried to talk myself out of it based on not having the right clothes. And then I almost forgot my mat.
Well, I gave myself a little talking-to in the car about doing vs. talking about doing, and I pulled up to the yoga studio with minutes to spare. The teacher was Chinese. I was thrilled. I still speak a little Chinese, and we chatted for a few minutes before class. Then, I walked into the heated room (hot yoga), and I saw the seriousness of the other students and I started to feel a little bit of fear in my heart. This wasn't the gym crowd. There was no chatting. These were all beautiful, lithe bodies stretched out on mats, composed and prepared for study.
Ping, the teacher from Taiwan, came into the room and we began. We got right down to it. There was no chatter, no sitting cross-legged for ten minutes. There was just movement. Today's yoga class was yin/yang yoga, and we started with yin. I'd tell you how we started, but I can't remember. I simply can't. It was only two hours ago, and I honestly can't remember what I did. I do remember that from the get-go, this wasn't my mother's yoga class. This was no simple gym class. This was YOGA. Sweet mama..........
I have never, ever, worked that hard at anything in my life other than childbirth. Ever. Tracy Anderson...........please. I mean, here's the thing. When you do at-home videos, there is nobody there to correct you, to tell you that you have more to give, to tell you to push harder, that you can do it, to throw your hips wider, to put your leg out further. There is only Tracy, with her perfectly coiffed hair and make-up, saying, "I know it's hard, but you really must do it."
Well, enter Ping. She is small and fit and at least 50. She won't let you get away with half-assing it. She will call you out: Amy, you can offer more. You must push harder. You are compensating.
And come on - it was only my first time, and she knew it!
I was shaking. I was obviously sweating, and by sweating I don't mean perspiring. No, that's what gentle southern women do. I was drenched in sweat. It was pouring down the sides of my arms and face. Just when I thought I couldn't stand a pose a second longer, she would tell us to go deeper, to stretch further. There was no sitting it out. There was no sense that if it was too hard you could simply go back to child's pose. And Ping was watching, all the time moving around the room. She must have re-positioned me at least 12 times. At least.
There were moments when I thought I'd collapse and give up and call out, in Chinese so the other students wouldn't understand: I can't do it. It's too hard.
But then I thought that maybe that's my problem in general. Whenever things get hard, I quit and tell myself it wasn't for me.
I kept going, even though I was shaking and I thought I'd die. I sort of actually longed to be in labor, because at least contractions only last a minute or so and then you have a breather. We held some of these positions for 3 minutes, and what seems feasible in the first thirty seconds becomes unbearable after a minute.
In the end, during our very last pose, before cool down, I was able to somehow contort my body into a bird-of-paradise pose, which I'd never before done and which only two other students were able to do. I did it. I stood up, and Ping saw me and she said, "Good Amy, keep going. Stretch your leg out. Kick it out straight."
I did. I kicked it out straight, and I somehow didn't collapse, and Ping said, "See everyone. She's doing it, and it's only her first day."
The woman next to me leaned over, when I had two feet back on the ground, and said, "That's amazing."
As we cooled-down, Ping talked about someone in our lives who might be suffering and how we could send them our healing energy. I thought of my daughter, Maggie, who is missing her father so much now and who is struggling with her anger and her emotions. I wanted to send her my healing energy because so much of the time I'm focused on dishes, or blogs or laundry or bopping around town, and I don't always know how to help Maggie deal with her emotions about her father's absence. So, I lay on the floor, my palms facing the sky, and I sent my daughter all of the healing thoughts I had, letting them flow out of that experience and into her soft little heart.
I think I'll give up the gym membership. It's time to get real. Three months. I can't wait to see what I can do.
Quote of Inspiration
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar