A meditation on yoga
Yoga and I are in a love/hate relationship. I don’t think there is any other way I can be with it.
I go to a studio and I stretch and pull and shape my muscles. Direct my hips, angle my feet. I have to work, really work, to relax my face. Ups and downs, planks and pigeons, tables and chairs.
I praise myself for touching my toes — I couldn’t do that years ago. On the blacktop of my elementary school I sat with my legs stretched in front of me. I willed my fingers toward my feet, but they would not go. The Presidential Fitness Test showed me that I was inadequate. Taught me that I could not do a pull-up or a push-up or even bend my body in half. It planted a bitter seed in my gut. “Maybe it’s not right to weigh this much. . . ”
In college when all the girls wore pleather pants and delicate bandanas strung together into tops, and everyone I knew was tan and gorgeous and limber, I still could not touch my toes, didn’t know when I should speak, didn’t know why boys only kissed me at night, never acknowledged me by day. Didn’t know, but I surmised it was me — only my soft body and soft mind could be so wrong.
Now, I touch my toes and feel empowered when I wriggle my hands under my arches, drawing myself deeper into the bend.
Fuck those boys and fuck the president and fuck not talking.
And a bandana is not a shirt, at least not one I’d like to wear.
And I breathe out and laugh a little because it hurts and feels good at the same time.
In hot power yoga class I wanted to cry. Everything was going too fast and everything was uncomfortable and the lady in front of me was popping into handstands and I was sweating and I thought I might scream and an invisible scalpel cut into the place where I thought my lungs would be but instead of flesh a huge swathe of space filled with tears poured out and I was scared.
I haven’t been back there yet. But I think about it. I think I’ll go back there.
In ashtanga and vinyasa the teacher cooed gentle things, things that I wanted to snark and snort about but ended up being too nice to erase. Words like “sink” “melt” “drop” all became poetic as they soothed me into place.
“Ask your body for a millimeter–maybe in a year or two you’ll gain an inch”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.”
What are these people talking about? But, yes, yes, and thank you.
I’ve been a hole that ate everything up and found solace in nothing.
I’ve been a machine that saw food as fuel, every calorie accounted for in repetitive shows of athletic “power.”
I’ve starved and lost all sense of things, lost the numbers and names of the days. Belly collapsing into a fist, I could not lick my fingers for fear that their natural oils would tip the scale. A sack of bones heavy with paranoia.
In plough pose, my body rolls over my head and my feet touch the ground behind me. Here, I’m forced to feel and see my abs cascade in little lumps before me. Really feel and really see. I love and hate the rolls.
Yoga hasn’t fixed me and it’s not magical and perfect and it hasn’t made me skinny or wonderfully acceptant of my fatty deposits. In yoga I move through discomfort and I hold on and then let go. I remember all the the stories stuck in me and on me and then I find some surprising(?) new ones. It feels real and I feel real there and this is why I keep going.
Ana Holguin writes PopHeart for The Idler.