I'll admit I've lost track of which fig I'm supposed to be tackling in terms of numbers. It's all a blur now. But I have done yoga now, for three months straight, at least once a week. Whew. It took some determination, because there were certainly times I didn't want to do it. What is it about us that makes us dread doing stuff we actually love doing, once we get going? Anyway, I did it. Insert Fist Pump.
Here's the thing. I believe yoga could "change my life." I do. It's a beautiful expression of the harmony between one's mind and one's body. I think yoga is a form of meditation, because if you're really doing the poses and pushing yourself to go further, you can't be thinking about the grocery list or the kids or whatever it is we think about when we go for a jog. In fact, I never understood what people meant when they said running helps clear their head. For me, it only gets me further inside my head. And being further inside my head isn't always a place I need to go.
Yoga is different. You certainly use your body, push it to its limits, stretch it. And since there are different forms of yoga, you can be very active about it all, flowing through sun salutations so quickly and fluidly that you build up quite the sweat - especially in a heated room. So, I think yoga is a great "workout" if you're trying to workout. Of course, like anything, it matters the level and the amount of effort you put into it. You can slog through it and see any real benefit, and I don't even think you would get much mental benefit in slogging through it. I think that for yoga to truly be beneficial, you have to be stretching yourself. Otherwise, it's just going through the motions.
The thing I love about yoga, above all else, is that the focus isn't on being thin. It's not about whittling down this or that "problem" area (or at least it's not meant to be about that - we Americans have certainly bastardized it to that level in some areas). Yoga is about flow and balance, and while I practiced it in a room full of other students, everyone seemed so graceful and present. I saw people of all shapes and sizes. I remember one day, a woman in front of me was much larger than me. Normally, when it comes to sports/athletics, size matters. The slim girl is "better" than the heavier girl. Not so in yoga. This woman was so lovely, holding her poses with such grace and stability. I remember how nice her face looked as she held a pose, very calm and quiet. And there I was, the slim girl, all wobbly and half-tipping over. I used to look around the room and watch all the bodies, and yoga gives you such an appreciation for the body itself and for the strength and beauty of the body. I think this is something that makes yoga worth it if for no other reason. It reminded me of the purpose of a body and of how strong we can be when we're not focusing on bat-wing flab.
Having said all of this, I don't think I was supposed to be looking around the room at all the bodies. I mean, I think I was pretty much missing the point as I tipped over in triangle and arched my neck to see if the guy in front of me had his hand on his shin or on the floor. Really, why did I care? I'm not sure, but I did. I found studying yoga in a classroom setting to be HIGHLY distracting. But that's me. I'm fascinated by people. I'm fascinated by what they wear, how they talk, which hand gestures they use, how they talk to their children and spouses. The other day I saw a woman get into a car with a leopard-print steering-wheel cover. I have thought about that for weeks. Weeks. Leopard-print. Fascinating.
Thus, I found, in my three months, that studying yoga at home works best for me. I don't think it's any easier, if you push yourself from inside rather than from competing with others or having teacher Ping tell you, "You have more to give, Amy." I found a few yoga DVDs I like. I can put them into the player while the kids are sleeping and get a full 60 to 90 minutes at home. Then, I can shut it off and do the dishes.
And that brings me to my biggest issues with yoga. First, it takes a lot of time. It's at least 2 hrs. I have to drive to the studio. I have to get a spot and lay out my mat and wait. Then, we do the 75 or 90 minute class. Then, we get up and put our things away and get into our cars. Then I go home. It's at least 2 hrs. And I don't have 2 hrs. away from the house, without my kids for that. The precious time I have while the kids are at school is filled with errands, house keeping issues, appointments, etc. So, for me, right now, I can't fit yoga into my schedule more than once or twice a week. Well, I can but I won't. Because doing it would mean I would spend the rest of my day scurrying around to get everything else done, and that would stress me out. I do think I'll practice yoga regularly at some point. But it will have to be when I have more time.
Second, and here is my real issue, as wonderful as yoga is, it's not as good for keeping trim and fit as Tracy Anderson. I have yet to find anything that is. Anything. And Tracy Anderson is a commitment. Her videos are hard and time consuming. Even doing only one a day, it's an hour of working out. And I frankly can't work out more than an hour a day nor do I want to. I have struggled with this issue. On the one hand, Tracy is very effective, but her focus is very much on slimming, targeting "problem" areas and whittling one's thighs down. On the other hand, it works. Yoga is a beautiful practice and one that, coupled with a great diet, could definitely keep you slim and toned. But I'm going to say it. It just doesn't work as well as Tracy.
Third, and finally, I don't think yoga is beneficial (truly) unless you commit to it and do it at least five times a week. Doing it once or twice, even three times a week, was okay but I didn't notice any change in my mental state or in my body. I didn't feel even more flexible. I enjoyed the yoga. I liked how it made me feel. And I think true practice would be amazing, but once a week for three months was, if I'm honest, not at all amazing.
I'm learning in life that it's time to make choices. I can't be all things or do all things. I have to focus. I don't have the time or energy to pursue every goal I have ever made or seen or thought of in my life. Just like cleaning out one's closet, I think we have clean out our goals so that we make priorities and then see them through. This year has been especially helpful in doing this for me. As I work my way through this list, I'm able to see what really matters to me, what I am passionate about and how I want to spend my time.
For now, as much as I loved yoga, I'm shelving it. And moving on.
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