I’m on again in my on again-off again relationship with yoga.
This, perhaps, is why you might find more typos in this post than normal. My right shoulder is a little upset with me. It’s even trembling as I type.
I’ve been practicing yoga — and practicing is truly the operative word here since I’ve never quite committed nor become expert — since 1997.
It was through an employee-friendly work environment at Scholastic that I found myself first sitting cross legged in a dimly lit room and mumbling “Ong Namo. Dguru Dev Namo.” At the time, Scholastic offered exercise classes to its employees after hours, in addition to a fully-equipped gym both during the work day and after. (My current teacher on Hannaton also offers yoga in the workplace. More corporations would do well to adopt this mindset and strategy.)
In my fickle 17 year relationship with yoga, chanting, and meditation; I’ve found that the only thing that’s really changed over time is me. Yoga stays the same. It’s my needs and my approach to the practice that changes.
I’m very fortunate, in that case, that yoga is willing to welcome me back, time and time again.
This time around I’m noticing, of course, how my almost-40 year old body can’t quite meet the floor the way it used to. Where I once prided myself on always getting my heels to the ground for Downward Dog, I now notice the inch of space between my heel and the floor. Where I once used to marvel at my inner innate gymnast, I now realize that gymnastics is really suited to the under 30 crowd.
Mostly, I’m noticing my mind more than my body, this time around. Interesting, I suppose, as my body becomes more of a point of struggle for me than my mind. Whereas I used to be less accepting of my mind both in yoga practice and in life — my anxious thoughts, my incessant inner dialogue; I’m now open to what arises.
I truly notice, as our yoga teachers suggest we do, instead of judge. Not all the time, every time (there’s still some judging, especially when it relates to my aging body). But in most instances when furious thoughts arise during my practice, I find curiosity has replaced judging.
“They” say that women at 40 are in their prime. That women at 40 can have any man, any woman. That women at 40 find themselves at an intersection of confidence, knowledge, and life experience. That, at this intersection, we can choose to focus on whatever we want — career, family, relationship — and succeed.
Don’t they say that? They say something like that.
I think there is truth in it. But in addition to confidence, knowledge, and experience, I think what women at 40 begin to develop is curiosity and wonder. It was always there — curiosity and wonder– lurking under the surface since before adolescence. But somehow was pushed down by either Self or society in order to achieve our personal and professional goals. Women these days take on the world. Control becomes our goal.
As I approach this intersection, and as I invite yoga back into my life, I’m noticing the return of curiosity and wonder, and the slow exit of control. The gentle inviting in of uncertainty.
Yoga knew I had it in me all along. But like the wise older gentleman in a May-December romance, understood I had to discover it on my own, in due time. Yoga knew that no matter how much he tried to convince me I was beautiful and perfect just the way I am, I would not be convinced. Not truly, deeply. I’d have come to that conclusion on my own.
As I laid on the yoga mat in shavasana today, I felt the aches in my tight hips and the pulsing in my under-used shoulder muscles. And I quietly laughed. There aren’t many things in life, certainly not in fitness, that are so willing to accept used up, broken down bodies. Then I thought to myself, maybe it’s because yoga doesn’t see us as broken. Yoga sees us as whole and complete. Yoga sees us as perfect.
And this I chose as my intention for the day as I sunk down into relaxation. Yoga sees me as perfect.