Once per week I manage to attend the yoga class of one of my favorite instructors at the Rye YMCA. It’s really a treat to do so because of what people now call “adulting.” This new slang verb of the social media airwaves annoys me the same way the word “playdate” used to annoy me until I had no choice but to use the word to book play time between my children and their friends. But I suppose that Facebook needs to have a word to explain how it feels to deal with a political regime without a shred of cred or mental stability then go to work fearing the that world is going to end via big egos taunting each other into Mother Earth’s imminent doom, when escape via a yoga class or swim or whatever you do to revitalize yourself has to end wherever that point is in your week or day. Gardening. Photography. Being with your family. Your friends. Your dog. Yoga and swimming. Reading. Writing.
I have too many hobbies but the one I have to do is yoga. Exercise is something that I could best explain in a PowerPoint slide. You have on one hand the picture of Kathryn before exercise or yoga and it feels a bit like the comic vilian Electro. Overcharged = scattered, unfocused and subsequently a little mean. After exercise, there’s the me without what I call the outer layer of unproductive bitchiness that is much less effective and winds up getting nothing done. I look forward to the rigor and focus of a class that opens me up and oddly increases my capacity to mentally attend despite the chaos typical to a day in the life of a working mom of two middle-schoolers and one elementary school child. And an eight month-old puppy. And a cat.
It was in this yoga class with JT, that in a chair pose, prayer-handed twist that I wished for longer arms. Again. I wish for long arms only in this instance. Long arms give you an advantage in yoga. Like being tall gives you an advantage in business or basketball, supposedly. Long arms can get you into twists and binds with greater ease and provide not just the pretty shape it makes that impresses your friends, but it feels good. Binds create a tourniquet effect and create a surge of blood and oxygen to the areas involved after release. Or, they can cause you to hold your breath as you muscle into a pose and get out of a pose with pained joints and feeling of inferiority. I’ve felt both.
I live in a community with a lot of type A personalities, so a goal-centric mentality is common. Can you imagine if they didn’t even do yoga? When I say “they” I mean “we.” A practice has done great things for me but I often have to remind myself that it serves no good purpose to wish to be taller or longer. That it took me a good eleven years to get into a headstand and that I didn’t want to try it until I needed to try it. And when I did try it, it was less about the pose and more about what I needed in my mind to get there and what that space did for me and how I was subsequently better able to serve others – my family, co-workers, friends… How it calmed me. What standing on my head required was my unwavering focus to keep my body aligned enough and the confidence I slowly gained through technique and listening to instructors and my body that informed me how to get my legs in the air without the prop of a wall to support the foundation of the pose. Unwavering focus is not my strength. The world requires something else from me at the moment, but the meditative benefits surprise me every time I practice. Focus is calming. Now if I could just get everyone to leave me alone for 20 breaths or so, at least once per day, I’ll be a candidate for some unidentifiable higher plane: I’ll feel normal and go about my life as such.
My yoga teacher laughed at me when I told him about my wish for longer arms. He agreed that it makes it easier. Then I told him, “I bet Michael Phelps at one point wished his arms were standard size and that he didn’t have such weird-looking feet.”
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