I’ve been getting deeper into yoga. I’m in a teacher training program and I graduate in just two months. The program is a rigorous and traditional hatha program, it’s been around since the 60s, was actually one of the first programs for hatha teacher training in the U.S. We have gone steadily through what are called the 8 limbs of yoga, of which asana or postures—that most of us understand to be yoga—are just one part.
It took me a long time to get around to doing this program. I started researching similar trainings four years ago when I was in New York. It seems inevitable how, looking back, that I would eventually do something like this. I’ve always been seeking some deeper understanding of life that seemed elusive.
I didn’t realize how much tension I had accumulated in my body over the years at my office job, doing “knowledge work” and just generally thinking, reading, and talking for most of the day. It seemed normal. Most of the yoga I took then just compounded the problem. The quick, strenuous, movements of traditional exercise—done with the kind of haste with which you make up for lost time—often encourages habitual overuse of stronger muscles, making them stronger, and tighter, while making weaker muscles still more inaccessible.
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Yoga, as I’ve learned, is used to correct imbalances in the body and biases in our posture so that the skeleton easily bears the weight of the body, and the muscles don’t have to overwork. And, what came to be over time can only be changed over time.
The aches in my body also reflected the tension underlying my fairly hard-driving nature, something I didn’t even recognize for a long time because it didn’t gel with my laid-back manner. When I was in college, I told a friend I wanted to do yoga to help relax, and she said, “Jeez, Em, If you were any more relaxed, you’d be unconscious!”
It confused me, how others saw me, because even then I felt dissatisfied and tense, despite (or because of) my passive demeanor. Through the years my obsessive habit of overthinking hardened into feelings of stuckness that pervaded my life, and my body… stuck in an eddying whirlpool, not going anywhere, for all the energy I was expending.
Even when I tried to find a solution, I was just using the same techniques—overthinking, a critical problem-solving attitude—that got me into the predicament. Friends used to say to me, “You think too much,” and I’d say: “That’s interesting, I’ll think about that.”
It was only in yoga that I began to learn a different way, and to understand why my approach didn’t work to begin with.
To be continued…
Photo Attribution: By Robert Bejil Photography
coincidentally just heard this broadcast on NPR after I read your piece:
looking forward to part two!