This past Saturday was a cause for celebration. Not because of that Jewish carpenter who, if he ever really lived at all, died over 20 centuries ago. It’s something else, of far less momentous import, than those old stories, if they are to be believed. This thing I’m talking about I did — every day, for eight years. That’s 2,922 days including two leap years, if you’re counting, as I obviously have been. This thing lasted for 30 minutes or more. More math: that’s 87,660 minutes. Or the equivalent of 60.875 days. But while the numbers and math have surely have strong significance, what’s as if not more important is something Yoga with Adriene says: “Keep showing up for yourself on the mat.”
I wrote this in my journal late Saturday night:
It felt exactly like any other day. Distracted, calm, tight, centered, ok, bored, good, bad, inflexible, lazy, fat, tired, relaxed — in other words, all of the feels. I did some Warrior 1 and 2 briefly due to being in socks. And a childs’ pose that I couldn’t hold due to not accommodating the belly.
No special incense, or white yoga clothes, or a video. But still, it’s something. I don’t quite comprehend it. Did I really do that? Technically, I didn’t, because I sometimes start after midnight. And I’ve even had to make a few manual entries in Strava due to not remembering to push the start button twice.
Overall, I’m comfortable making the claim. 2,922 days is pretty good. [I calculate some math.] Anyway, it’s 14.29% of my life. If I took out the first few… [Got distracted and made my salad. Had to kill a big roach.]
Reading Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling. It is interesting but seems to come from a privileged place. He’s writing about famous people and then not famous, who mostly found their “calling.” Some didn’t and were unhappy. But those who did figured out how to get paid. I’m not that smart, talented, or lucky.
Read my review of another of his books, Yoga and the Quest for the True Self.
What does one’s dharma have to do with yoga poses? Well, the word yoga means “to yoke,” so using what happens on the mat to connect more fully with your deeper self and then to your life off the mat is actually pretty relevant. The book is about finding one’s path in life, drawing on the story of the Bhagavad Gita, the famous Indian scripture and the lives of some famous people and also composite friends of the author who struggled to find their place. Maybe yoga would have helped them. Maybe it can help you and me.
There’s a lot more to all of this — after all, the physical poses are just one part of the larger yogic lifestyle and philosophy, which aren’t necessary to buy into. For me, I just get on that mat and unwind from the day’s bike ride and other events. Some days it’s surprising what I find on the mat. Maybe I’ll have an insight, or a particular muscle ache that’s been bothering me will dissipate.
While it would be nice if the asanas had made me a lot more flexible, stronger, or even a little enlightened, it is called a practice for a reason. Maybe some day practice will make perfect, but again, that’s not the point. Touching one’s toes is not required. One must simply show up, breathe, move, and listen to the body/mind’s intelligence — that still small voice within. And some days, that is a gargantuan task. Some days, I don’t find much of anything new at all. But I still have to get on the mat to have the chance to find it.
Getting on the mat: that’s really the majority of the battle.
Finding the time, the energy, or just the motivation, can seem like insurmountable obstacles. It’s true that I don’t have kids or someone I have to constantly be checking in with. Or even a job, right now. But I began doing yoga while I was employed full-time, and expect I will be again soon. Making and taking the time for your self — your higher or whole self, if you prefer — is a commitment, for sure, but it’s possible.
Yes, that voice will chatter away. It may tell you positive things about how awesome your yoga is, or lies like “you used to be able to do ____ but now can’t, so you suck”, or maybe it’s adding to your shopping or to do lists. But you just keep returning to the moment. It’s like with meditation, something I do afterward for five minutes. This year I’ve added five minutes of foam rolling of my tight leg muscles, too.
So what are the benefits? Well, bending down to pick up stuff or reach under something is not a problem. When I was on a phone call earlier talking with an old college buddy, and yoga came up, I was able to touch my left big toe to my nose. I wasn’t trying to impress him but just show that if done regularly, you can be more flexible than you were, or at least lose less of it as you age. (My right hip has always been much tighter, so I can’t do it on that side.)
There are other things, less concrete. More calmness and being slower to react when someone pisses you off it a nice benefit. Although sometimes the expression of anger is a completely normal human emotion. Feeling connected to your self, one’s higher self, and the world. A slowing down of your heart rate and a greater awareness of the body/mind. With that comes appreciation, gratitude, and more. If you want yoga to kick your ass there are classes for that. But even then it usually comes with a healthy does of peace at the end whilst lying in corpse pose… a position which we all must assume sooner or later.
But… I’d be lying if I didn’t share that some days I’m not very inspired and just not that into it. I may feel as if I’ve not accomplished anything much (a very Western thought for an Eastern tradition). I haven’t quit, and that’s not nuthin’. So far, I just keep showing up for myself. Maybe something will intervene to stop that in 2022. Or I’ll even give up the streak just to teach myself a lesson, which is that craving and aversion are not very yoga-ey. Then again, my yoga practice is like rushing my teeth by now; I’m going to do it daily come hell or high water, because it doesn’t work when you don’t do it!
In the final analysis, the accomplishment that strokes the ego is irrelevant. Try it, you might like it. Or don’t, and go kickboxing or whatever works for you. I probably need to mix it up, ake things more challenging. And if my little example helps someone else to begin to try yoga, then great. I don’t want a ribbon or a trophy. Maybe a t-shirt would be nice. It’s not for everybody, but every body could benefit from some yoga. I mean, I’m just A Dude. I don’t have all the answers.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor or certified yoga teacher. Get permission from your medical professional before starting a physical activity like yoga. I ain’t responsible if you try it and something happens that you don’t like.
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