Redefining Yoga

"If you love something, set it free." —Sherrilyn Kenyon, or maybe someone else who had waaaay too much time to create Facebook memes

Dear Internet,

I walked into my first yoga class when I was eighteen. That means that for the past twelve years my life has revolved around this ancient practice (Okay, so it hasn't been a solid twelve year commitment. There were those moments, mainly in college, where I did a lot more thinking about yoga while sleeping off a hangover than I did any actual yoga. But still—twelve years. Twelve years, I've been organizing my life around asana* classes.).

*For those of you whom I'm related to or suffered with through that bizarre reenactment of Peter Rabbit that the Baptist church put on when we were kids in which they forced us to dress up like vegetables, asana is not some secret code for having cocktails with Satan. It simply means posture. I could have easily said stretching, or attempting to put my foot behind my head instead, but I like to sound smart and superior so I say asana. I also realize this weak attempt to explain my heathen ways probably has no effect on you whatsoever and I'm still on your prayer circle list. To which I reply, "Thank you." Because as far as I'm concerned, I could use all the prayers I can get.

Anyhoo. Twelve years is a long time y'all. Some people don't even stay married for that long. Yet, here I've been rolling out my mat and doing my thing. For. Twelve. Years.*

*For those of you who have me on your prayer circle list because I've "been doing my yoga thing for twelve years," I assure you that does not refer to sacrificing goats, or making burnt offerings, or having graven images before anyone, or worshiping golden calves. It simply means that for twelve years I have been going to a public yoga studio, rolling out a rectangle of rubber, and stretching in the company of others, while sometimes talking about why it's important to be nice, and turn the other cheek, and be kind to everyone—you know, kinda like what Jesus did (I'm sorry was that too far?). But if you don't believe me, you can ask my friend Jan. You can ask her because not only is Jan one of the people I've been "doing my thing with," Jan happens to be a yoga teacher AND the wife of a minister. Yes, a yoga instructor AND a minister's wife. I just blew your mind didn't I? And before you discount her as the wife of some snake charming not real minister from the wild, wild West, Jan and her family live in Wagner, South Carolina. Wagner. And the church they belong is a real, live Methodist church. That's okay I'll wait while you apologize for condemning to me hell for something you've never even participated in. I got all the time in the world because I learned patience in yoga.

Now back to my existential crisis about yoga—the one consistent thing that has defined my life for the past twelve years besides trying to find a husband.

I can blame the following positive life occurrences on yoga:
  • Recovering from my mom's untimely death.
  • Managing my depression.
  • Losing 70lbs.
  • Prolonging my sinful life by lowering my blood pressure, improving my cholesterol, introducing me to a form of exercise that doesn't give me seizures (Okay, I never actually had real seizures, they were just mainly in my head when I thought about having to workout at a gym or go running or heaven forbid—play a team sport), and lowering my stress level (all of which can be proven by science, which I would totally show you if I wasn't too lazy concerned I might have a seizure from working too hard on the Internet, so you're just gonna have to trust me when I say there are numerous studies that scientifically show yoga to be very, very beneficial for your health, and if you don't trust me, well then you're just going to have to go look them up yourself but don't say I didn't warn you about the seizures).
  • Introducing me to a beautiful, supportive group of women who will fly to the other side of the country just to ensure my secret trashy isn't showing on my wedding day while wearing silver glittery Toms and non-matching dresses because I asked them to. They will also do lots of other nice things like tell you when you're getting that far away depressed look, or have salad in your teeth, or smell bad.
  • Helping me not murder anyone while in grad school (see article about yoga as stress relief).
  • Cutting my getting ready time to ten minutes tops, as yoga pants and t-shirts aren't really time intensive wardrobe decisions.
  • Allowing me to meet my husband (Okay, so he's not my husband yet and if this does end up going South I'm totally blaming yoga for it).
I'm sure there are others like making me a nicer, more patient, loving human being, and raising my self-esteem to a normal level, but I didn't want to get too cocky. And you can never be too sure where therapy and anti-depressants end and yoga begins (except I'm not on anti-depressants anymore because of all the yoga).

Nevertheless, the point is—yoga has done amazing things for me. Things I'm very thankful for. Things that make this next sentence sort of hard for me.

I'm kinda over asana. I know, some of you just praised the Lord and others of you are speed dialing me to make sure I have not been abducted by aliens. I thank both camps.

It's just when I wake up in the morning and I check in with what my body wants to do, it's not asana. It's mainly everything but asana. And while I laid in bed last night working out exactly how I was going to tell you this, I suddenly realized I actually have a fantastic reason why. A reason that was so unexpected—and by unexpected I mean that I've been trying to figure this out for moths and only just discovered it last night at 3am even though it had been laying right beside me the whole time—I started to cry because it's so true and perfect and comforting.

Brian is my yoga.

That's right. Brian is my yoga.

For these twelve years, yoga has been the vehicle I've used for knowing myself deeper. For challenging myself. For growing. For learning how to be patient and kind and accepting and loving.

Until it wasn't. Because we can only do so much alone. We need mirrors.

And Brian is now that for me. The love and acceptance that happens between us is much deeper than anything that has ever happened on the mat. And I'd much rather spend my mornings doing that kind of yoga than trying to kick into handstand.


Because at the end of the day yoga is not about the postures or the stretching. It's about radical love and acceptance and deep knowing (Chit Ananda for those of you who know).

And Brian shows me that every single day. He shows me that when I roll over and poke him awake. When I sing the same four bars of one song for a month. When I spend the entire morning writing instead of cleaning the house like I said I would.

He shows me that because he loves me. Because he loves me despite all the weird, annoying things I do. Even because of all the weird, annoying things I do. He loves me even though I'm not perfect.

So suddenly, moving my body through a serious of contrived poses* in order to know that feels sort of meaningless in comparison. (*I'm actually putting this one at the end because lord the can of worms it's going to open.)

And I'm okay with that for now, for Brian to be my yoga. Because he's—our relationship—is pushing me to grow in ways asana never can. Never has.

And if I've learned anything from all the horrible, no good things yoga has helped me overcome, it's that—life is short. And if I've learned anything from yoga, it's—when you find something that lights you up inside, that so perfectly reflects your brilliance, and so so gently pushes against your growing spots you should hold on to that thing like holy heck.

So, that's what I'm doing.

I'm holding on to Brian like holy heck. And I'm taking walks, and writing, and meditating. And I'm doing just fine.

I'm doing more than just fine. I'm doing fantastic. And isn't that sort of the point of yoga, anyway?


*Hey guys can we all just admit that the system of yoga we practice in the West is relatively new and based solely on the ideas of a handful of men? Indian men. Indian men who did not have large boobs and short arms and birthing hips. Indian men who sometimes hit their students with sticks if they were misaligned. Can we all also agree that this is a little crazy? And that maybe we shouldn't be sooo concerned about exactly replicating those poses. And maybe we should stop giving people the stink-eye when they don't really want to do an Eye of the Tiger practice or be the Valedictorian of Asana or could careless about standing on their heads for ten minutes at the time. Because there are other things to life besides yoga. Other things are just as worthy and valuable. And being a yogi does not make you better, or more enlightened, than anyone else. In fact it probably makes you a little worse off in some ways (according the that book that was on the NY Times Bestseller list), especially if you live in the South, where you get the stink-eye for being a yogi. And could we also stop with all the competing and focusing just on asana? Because there are seven other limbs. SEVEN!

**And also could we realize that the above rant does not secretly refer to anyone I know personally or to either of the kulas I've been a part of, but just to the general air of yoga in general, generally speaking?

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