This country (or maybe it’s just California?) remains in the midst of this weird love affair with yoga. Yoga supposedly is transformative, and (if you believe the hype) will re-shape your body, mind, and entire outlook on life. I want to like yoga, I really do … but every time I try it I come away underwhelmed. Still, this does not stop me from succumbing every few months to friends’ urgings or the recommendations of health magazines, dusting off my mat, and either at an exercise studio or in the embarrassment-free zone of my home giving yoga another try. Inevitably, instead of being present and centered, my thoughts during any given session instead turn to the following:
- My toes! Please, people, don’t look at my feet. Note to self: Schedule pedicure.
- How does she look so good in yoga pants? I want to look that good in yoga pants. Please, people, don’t judge my running tights standing in for Lulu yoga-wear … at least I’m here.
- (While shooting a “what the hell” look at my well-meaning instructor) You want me to twist my body how while doing what? You know this is not natural, right?
- Finally! Something I can do with my dignity in tact (as I lay down flat on my back with legs extended and arms resting by my side). I call it the “nap pose” and, yes, I have mastered it.
Again, I wish I felt otherwise, but it is hard to love something that threatens to knock me on my ass every time I try to contort my body into a new pose and reminds me, repeatedly, how truly inflexible I am.
Admittedly, my disdain for anything that sets me off balance is not confined to the yoga studio. I am a self-identified creature of habit, drawn to the comforts of home and a routine that on almost every given day consists of making my son’s lunch and sending him off to school, wishing my college-age daughter a good day, commuting to the office to do my attorney-thing, returning for the after-school hour and a workout, cooking while watching the daily evening news with my teenager and husband (does any other family still do this?), dinner at 6:30 followed by some contingency joining the dog on an evening stroll. There is some variation, but basically, this is it. My simple, happy life … that every once in awhile gets knocked off balance.
There are those big impossible events that have turned my world upside down in the worst possible way: my father’s terminal illness and eventual passing ranking at the top of that list. Then there are everyday misadventures that bump me slightly off center: the flu, a sick animal, a traffic jam, forgotten homework, bad weather. And then there is the in-between category – those events that, while planned, mess with life’s day-to-day equilibrium: a move, sending a child to college, even extended work travel.
On my best days, most days really, I feel solid, with my feet planted firmly on the ground. But when circumstances require me to shift- especially to something new or uncharted or uncomfortable – it can make me wobble, and frankly fight against whatever it is that is trying to make me change until I either (1) win and return to my comfort zone, or (2) adapt to the new normal. Either way, it can be hard when a new, life twist presents itself.
Most advice I have received from yoga instructors has long since been forgotten. But on one particular day, when I was failing miserably and cherishing the relative anonymity provided by my position in the a dimly lit, far back corner, our teacher kindly reminded us (me?) that if we needed to, we could break out of the pose and reset so that we could find our balance again. And I did.
As it turns out, that was one of the best life lessons, in or out of the yoga studio, I have ever learned.