Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yoga for a Woman Out of Balance

"Fear is nervousness; fear is anxiety; fear is a sense of inadequacy, a feeling that we may not be able to deal with the challenges of everyday life at all. We feel that life is overwhelming. People may use yoga to suppress their fear..."--
Chögyam Trungpa, from Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery

The decision is always a tough one: stay in bed/on the couch, staring at the wall or with my eyes closed but not sleeping--or, get up and do something productive in the morning, something healthy that will make my life like a cereal commercial. I'm the well-dressed career woman who admires her slimmer figure in a full-length mirror, picks up her sporty gym bag, then eats a bowl of Special K (which I would like to add is made with high fructose corn syrup, a contributor to weight GAIN) and sashays out the door, oozing self-satisfaction.

Or I'm the petite and lean young woman with the bouncy blonde ponytail and the "Arlington 5K Race" T-shirt, running at a swift pace without sweating or wheezing. I see this person all over the place--in the park, on the city streets, in my neighborhood. She's everywhere and she's always fitter than you.

The point is, I can loaf around and eat a second bowl of Kashi Autumn Wheat or I can get up and exercise. Since I quit the gym (I never went, it was boring, I felt compelled to take a shower and put on make-up BEFORE going to workout!) and after I stopped my walking routine, I've been feeling muscle aches, lower back pain, and just a general apathy about my body. But I remember what it's like to feel strong and energized, and I want that feeling back.

So here I am again, starting yet ANOTHER workout regimen. This time its Yoga. I figured it would be an appropriate practice, considering where I work. The pictures of the fresh-faced women in Yoga Journal, the kinds who only eat natural products and bathe themselves in kelp and are 55 but look 35--maybe I can aspire to be like them. No more Proctor & Gamble chemically-laced soap and shampoo for me! I will only buy my toiletries from obscure producers in California. No more Cheez-Its breaks! I will munch on unbleached almonds. I will practice Yoga at home everyday until I'm confident enough to take my act on the road, to a Yoga studio.

I bought the Rodney Yee's Yoga for Beginners DVD (featuring Colleen Saidman, yet another pretty, lithe middle-aged woman who looks like a college student.) I had a roommate who used a Rodney Yee DVD to do Yoga. She said she had heard that Yee was a letch in real life, sleeping around with his female students. If this is true, it wouldn't surprise or really phase me. He's rich, he's famous, he can wrap himself into a pretzel. Many women would find that attractive.

I start with the practice poses. If there were someone in my livingroom right now guiding me, they'd probably be constantly repositioning my Mountain pose or pushing my legs out further for Downward Facing Dog. I make up some poses. I struggle to replicate Rodney. It reminds me of when I was a little girl in Miss Maria's class at Bayshore Dance Academy, when she told my mother that I had a hard time following the class. It's probably because I had to stop and think before I could remember which was my right foot and which was my left, or I'd have to pause to do the "L"-shaped thumb reminder. By the time I had pinpointed the correct leg, the other dancers were on to something else.

Yoga is supposed to be relaxing. Unfortunately, our kitten Joey Thumbs keeps digging her claws around my ankles and "playing" with me. I try to shake her off without flinging her across the room, but she's surprisingly strong. I should have known this. After all, I had witnessed her running toward the front of the dishwasher several times and ramming her head into it, without showing any signs of a headache or permanent brain damage.

When I manage to get Joey off me, she goes after her other favorite punching bag, our ten-year-old cat Audrey. I focus on my breath while trying to block out the sounds of growling, hissing, and spitting. When the 40-minutes are up, I feel both relief and a sense of accomplishment. But I won't get ahead of myself here. I'm only on Day #2. They say it takes three weeks to form a habit.

I disagree with Chogyam Trungpa that Yoga is an escape from fear. Yoga has inspired fear in me for years--in addition to the right/left problem, I'm also a high-strung type. The one other time I took a yoga class, in college, I hated lying on the floor contemplating the top of my head. Such stillness and physical awareness scared me. Now it's becoming a welcome respite, a time to slow down and really experience my strong legs, flexible back muscles, and open chest. I feel what it's like to stand up straight instead of slouching, to reach up instead of shrinking back.

When I walk to work this morning, I stand a little bit taller.


Donna Quesada said...

Congratulations on your new yoga practice:) I know what you mean about high-strung kittens - we've got one! Aren't they supposed to mellow out by the time they're six-months old? Nothing like dogs!

Nathan said...

cats love yoga - i had the same issues with them doing poses in my old house. they gravitate towards the energy i think. as for all those shiny people in Yoga Journal and all that, don't worry about them. just do the poses as they come to you, no need to get anywhere, just be present with your body as it is.

Jason Miller, said...

Most Tibetans mean Yoga in a larger sense than Hatha yoga. I would bet Rinpoche was refering an Anutara Tantric yoga or even Chod, both of which work with the emotion of fear directly.

Awsome that you are doing hatha yoga though. Sadlya practice that I was never able to keep going for long.

NatureGirl said...

As an instructor I would have to say keep it up, you will never regret it, and namaste...

Levi said...

During a dance class a few weeks ago, the instructor wanted us to 'bless the space' and we had to get into downward facing dog and I never went back to class after that. My knee stopped working. But the good thing was that it was only one knee.

I love the quote you used on fear. (and thanks for your comment the other day. )

Levi said...

a program about yoga and how it helped this one woman "face the darkness in herself and in the world."