Illustration: The Magazine of Yoga
Poet in Residence
Bodies and Voices
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CARYN MIRRIAM-GOLDBERG
Back when I was an undergraduate in college, whenever I opened the refrigerator on a Sunday morning for breakfast (which was actually Sunday afternoon), it was always the same: cold pizza.
My roommates and I used to joke that cold pizza was like bad sex, still good but not so great. But then I knew it wasn’t true: bad sex is truly bad, and often (at least in my sampling of the possibilities) not nearly as good as cold pizza (even mediocre cold pizza).
Fast forward over 30-plus years to a life in which I don’t eat much pizza anymore — bad or good (although, jeez, I do miss the miss cold pizza) — and I find myself thinking about a variant of the cold pizza/bad sex analogy. Is bad yoga as good as cold pizza? Or in the case of my life now, maybe it’s more fitting to ask if bad yoga is as good as cold gluten-free, non-dairy pizza.
Status: Practicing (sort of)
But first, what do I mean by bad yoga? For me, this is yoga that I’m doing half-heartedly without being truly present, working with my edges, paying attention or attending to what opportunities show up for pushing through old limitations. It’s the kind of yoga I could do while checking facebook — and actually, I’m sorry to say I actually did do 30 minutes of various sitting poses once while doing just that.
I’ve also done yoga while watching the second movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (not the whole movie although that would be admirable, but just for a long stretch when Frodo, Sam and Gollum were mucking about the forest and rocky terrain). In other words, it’s doing yoga as part of a multi-tasking multi-plex state of being.
What’s for dinner?
This is not to say that my mind doesn’t occasionally — okay, always — wander at some point in any given yoga class: there are moments in downward dog or child’s pose where, instead of concentrating on opening my chest or the breath that brings me fully here, I struggle over whether to make a quick stir-fry for dinner or go out for fajitas. I figure such lapses are par for the course, and since most of the yoga I do — still do — is still so friggin’ hard for me, I have little time for such lapses.
What I mean by bad yoga is more a half-hearted, lightly-limbed laissez-faire going through the motions without real effort, intent, awareness, attention.
So is bad yoga good enough? I write this and wait for something in me besides my dominant frontal lobe to show up and answer. I breathe slowly. I breathe again.
It’s about the journey, not the destination
Bad yoga, I realize, is simply like breathing fast without time to relax into what taking in and releasing air gives us, or like driving somewhere without seeing any of the scenery. It will get us from one place to another, keep our limbs maybe a little more limber than no yoga at all, but in not showing up for the yoga that’s ready to converse fully with me, I’m missing out on most of the roadtrip.
Bad yoga may be less damaging than bad sex or cold pizza, but it’s still not good enough for what my being craves now.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.