well, it’s been a while, but i finally convinced dan to take a quick break from his incessantly insane life of studying and working to share another blog post. i’ve really been enjoying practicing yoga with him on a regular basis, because he has long since ceased to join me from other kinds of workouts. i missed him as my workout buddy! below he shares some thoughts about his yoga habits. enjoy!
More than a decade after my seven year stint in construction and a careless weightlifting accident, I was still in good shape but a bad back kept me from enjoying life as I would have liked to. Nearly as sure as the tide, some minor movement would randomly throw my lower back into a spasm every six months or so, rendering me useless to do anything other than take on a role as a throw rug in our apartment. This, on top of hatred for box gyms chock full of boilerplate regimented workout programs aimed at those who fail to muster up sufficient motivation on their own accord and pricey classes full of “you can do this” made it so working out at all left a sour taste in my mouth. The one exercise I did enjoy thoroughly was riding my bike through the city. However with a weak back, even that wasn’t without its occasional despair.
One fine spring morning, I happily agreed to accompany Molly to a yoga class, almost entirely for the chance to prove to her that yoga was just something soccer moms did to stretch out their lady parts while the kids were at practice. I was sad to see that this was EXACTLY this case. The glimmer of hope that this class would be useful and challenging went out the door when seeing we were the only two people under 40 and without children of our own. I’ll skip the details, but that morning left me a little disappointed, but boastful of how right I was that yoga was just for ladies.
Flash forward about four years where I sucked up my pride and decided to give yoga an honest shot. I don’t recall what actually sparked me to give yoga another try, perhaps it was the opportunistic approach to stare at my wife in those yoga pants without looking like a creepert, but I was very satisfied that I did. After Molly picked up a couple videos by Rodney Yee for us to try (who is a badass!), I got hooked. I had no qualms about attending yoga classes even geared solely toward women as long as it got me on the mat.
Working out was always a vision quest for me. Matthew Modine aside, it was my own challenge to focus my energy and attention on improving my body and mind, not to achieve a faster time or higher weight, but to consciously realize the limits of my organs and overcome physical and chemical boundaries. Yoga allows me to shut out everything beyond the edges of my mat and focus entirely on what I’m doing but without the escape of distraction. When I’m able to get into the practice, really get into it, my surroundings cease to exist and I can separate my body from my mind while guiding both through the breath without being bound by time and sets. My back problem dissipates. There is no back. I’m just a bag of carbon, a bundle of atoms acting out the laws of physic according to the perception in my mind and I am freed from the limitations of other workout regiments and a weak back.
Let’s not forget that Yoga is exhausting! I can push and push my body to limits beyond the number of reps or stack of plates, to a point where pain and strength are one in the same, where mental balance and focus are as exhausting as the position I’m holding. Molly once read me the quote, “yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself,” which I’ve come to better understand, describes the practice perfectly. To practice yoga is to understand that you are but a bunch of ligaments, muscles, bones that must abide to the laws of nature, but it’s in the manner to which you hold yourself in the world that allows you to find success, solace and focus within yoga.
Aside from completely curing my back problems, yoga has taught me that mental strength is more important that physical strength and what is physical strength without flexibility and poise. When I think about my practice and life and where I want to be, I am reminded of the Documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and that there is always room for improvement, perfection is only relative and without focus and humility, there can be no success. The progress I’ve made in my yoga practice has translated to my life beyond the practice more so than any other physical regiment I’ve taken on. When riding my bike though city traffic, I am more confident and focused, more aware of my body and my surrounding. When I’m at work, I can bring myself to focus and concentrate my energy to the task at hand better than I could previously.
I don’t care why anyone else does yoga and I don’t care if anyone else does yoga; it’s a personal quest of human advancement and focus within our reality that I seek. Yoga has become a tool to help me understand my place in the universe and I’m confidently fulfilled my post.