Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Lhassi With a Mango

A forum I post in has a thread for do-overs. What did you do (ten minute, ten hours, ten years ago) that you’d take back and “do over” if you had a chance?

I posted that I wished I’d gotten into yoga sooner, then started to explain why—but then realized it made a better blog post. So if you’re here from Postcard X, welcome. Get a drink and put your feet up. May I suggest the mango lhassi? That’s what today tastes like, sweet without being cloying, and creamy without mush. And mango. Mmmmmmmmmango.

I hated hated hated gym because I am athletically declined. I never saw much point to running, jumping, being active simply for the sake of being active. I like to hike; the world is pretty. But to have to get on a pair of shorts and run around--then change quick quick quick and dash to your next class; or change and run around right after lunch--ick.

And stretching. Hated that even more. It seemed like all the girls I went to school with were made of rubber, with powerful core muscles, so they could flip upside down hanging on the parallel bars, do the front splits and put their chins on the floor, stand on one foot and lift their other leg up over their heads.

And now all two of the guys who read this blog are saying “Where the hell was I???” Trust me fellas, this was back in the days when girls had cooties.

So I hated to stretch—stretching hurt, dammit. None of this “you may feel a slightly intense sensation now” nonsense. I know pain when I feel it. And since I hated to do it, well, I didn’t. Not if I could avoid it.

And there’s a lot you can do to avoid doing something you don’t wanna do, after all. Feeding the dog your Brussels sprouts, pushing all your stuff under the bed, walking past the growing pile of laundry with your nose in a book—great avoidance techniques. Until the day when you have an ingrown toenail, and you can’t get to your feet to free the little monster.

Not in one session. No, in several tiny little increment sessions, gasping for breath at the end of each one because you can’t find room for your ribs and lungs and organs when you’re bent, seeing as you haven’t bent since they stood over you in grade school when your toes were much closer to your hands.

And close behind that came the day when I wanted a meditative practice—some time each day to set down my problems and clear my head for a bit so I could come at my “stuff” fresh.

And then the clincher—I’m a big Cirque de Soliel fan. Deeply envied the contortionists just as I envied those limber girls in grade school. Walking through Barnes & Noble, I saw a pose on a yoga calendar that struck a memory—and when I looked at the back and saw more that only needed the makeup and costume to be exactly what I had seen on stage, I realized that I could do this too. All it would take is practice.

I’d love to relate how one year later I can go from Mountain to Wheel (with one leg in the air and my elbows on the ground, thank you). I’d love to relate how I practice twice every single day for half an hour in the morning and evening. I’d love to say that all my emotional quirks have been smoothed and resolved, but well, I’d be lying. Like a cheap rug, one that you keep telling yourself will lie flat once it’s been used for a while, but no matter how many parties you hold, it still humps and bumps in avocado green and burnt orange swells.

I’ve made progress. I’m making progress. I’m working to get my afternoon routine back in place, and the morning routine is solid. It’s part of getting ready for work, and I’m more likely to forget to put on my rings than I am to forget to do my six stretch day-opener.

However, every time I get frustrated that I can’t get my hips on my heels and my head on the floor at the same time, I think of a yoga teacher I knew, who still couldn’t get her head to rest on her knees in the long classic hamstring stretch that was my grammar school nemesis. It’s as much acceptance of your limitations as it is the drive for progress at any cost; and that’s the lesson I wish I’d learned earlier.

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