Me and yoga, we have a thing going on.
Like many relationships, there was the initial breathless courtship. That “I can’t believe there is something(one) so amazing, so utterly perfect for me!” part. Then the getting to know each other part. Yoga and me were a great match, such a welcome and timely detour from my weight-lifting, cardio-pumping gym days. We settled into a long stretch of bliss, delighting in the little surprises we would discover about each other along the way, marveling at one another’s depth and breadth, so very sure this was The One. We were nearly inseparable for a dozen years before it happened. Little by little, quite sneakily in fact, all the wonderful stuff I loved about yoga began to bug me. Annoy me to bits. It was as if yoga suddenly began chewing loudly with it’s mouth open. Leaving it’s stinky socks strewn across my life. I would roll out my mat expecting yoga to work it’s magic, to be what I had fallen in love with those many years ago, leave me all tingly and toes-curling in Savasana. Instead, it left me flat and cynical and I began to avoid it. When I did manage to show up, my time on the mat was wrought with feelings of inadequacy, as if I would never be “enough” for yoga, as if I was perpetually falling short.
Me and yoga, we took a break.
Of course, I still had a full class schedule to teach. I didn’t let on to anyone else that we were having our problems. Every week I witnessed the power of yoga in other people’s lives, saw them fall in love, their bliss-filled expressions at the end of class an affirmation of yoga’s powerful process. Sure, I felt pangs of jealously when I saw that first blush of young love fill the faces of the newly minted yogis. “Why can’t you be that for me anymore?” I would whine, “Am I not what you want anymore?”
Months marched on as we went our separate ways. My body craved yoga in ways I hadn’t experience before, but my ego resisted the call. The mutual friends we had while in the throes of our love affair seemed to hang out more with yoga than with me. They didn’t seem to see in yoga what I had seen, the contradictions, the unrealistic expectations. I withdrew even more.
During this break I remembered that it wasn’t that long ago that I had endured a similar break-up. Me and running had called it quits. Running had been that long-lost love of my life from my twenties. If running was a person, it would be Punk Rock Boy. I thought I could reclaim this lost love by joining a multi-sport club with my friends. Oh, the training opportunities! There were group runs and night runs and trail runs and deep water conditioning and brick workouts (which I actually had to google to find out what that meant.) Mostly, though, I trained on my own, already feeling the need to “keep up” and quite possibly even “catch up” with everyone else. An unhealthy competitiveness took hold of me and I pushed through it all. It didn’t feel good and before long I had an inflamed meniscus to keep my shin splints company. It was over. Kaput. Running and me just weren’t gonna work out. Ever. Again.
Without much yoga in my life, I retreated to what felt good. I love my hikes with my dog, Max. Put me in the woods with my dog and I am in my element. Breathing deeply, eyes and ears wide open, feet setting an even, easy cadence. It simply felt good to move, with no expectations. There was no pace to set, no PR to beat, no advanced pose to master and then get my picture taken doing it so I could post it on Facebook. Just me and my breath and my body.
And then, something funny began happening on my frequent forays into the woods. I began to run. I didn’t set out trying to run, I didn’t plan it–it just happened, unexpectedly. As I picked up my pace, I pulled the musty fall air deep into my lungs. My stride seemed easy and relaxed, effortlessly mid-foot striking and my feet feeling wide, supportive and agile. This! Oh yes, THIS! This is how I remember it feeling back in my running days so long ago! The first few times it happened, I found myself giggling as I tore through the trails. I run and I run and I run until it doesn’t feel good any longer and then I walk. And then it happens again. I run. Some days I run more than walk, some days I walk more than run. All are magnificent.
This rekindled love affair began happening around the beginning of September. Traditionally, autumn is a season of letting go. You don’t need to look far to see evidence of this in nature. All around us, trees are dropping their bronze and ruby leaves, no longer needing the foliage that shaded us in the heat of summer. Autumn has always been a powerful season for me, a season of new beginnings and full of opportunities to shed what I no longer need. This fall was no different. I began to wonder if what happened to me and running could happen to me and yoga. I began to wonder if I had piled so many expectations, hopes, dreams, should-of’s, could-of’s, and would-of’s onto my yoga mat that it collapsed under the weight?
I dropped my expectations. And I showed up.
So, I gave my yoga practice a call. Tentatively, we went out a few times just to see if it would be different. I made it clear from the get-go that there would be no expectations, just me showing up on my mat and letting it be. Indeed, it was different. Not surprisingly, yoga met me as I am, not how I wished I could someday be, or remembered once being. When I just showed up, yoga felt good in my muscles, in my bones and in my heart. Some of my time spent with yoga is filled with fiery energy, some is spent much closer to the ground. All are magnificent.
The funny thing about expectations is when I drop them, I automatically open myself up to being surprised. I like surprises. I like to think that on my mat and on the trails, I dwell in possibility. It really is a swell place to hang out in. A friend of mine recently wrote, “Expectations serve only to box us in. Live life unplanned.” This was a hard one for a rational pragmatist such as myself to wrap her head around. But I have come to understand that dropping my expectations doesn’t mean I live life haphazardly. It merely means that I open myself up to something much so much greater, much so much sweeter than I could have ever planned on my own.
So if you see me and I seem a little breathless, a little giddy, just know that me and yoga, we have a thing going on. I’m also spending time with an old flame, running. Falling in love all over again. But mostly, I’m just showing up.