Photo: cc by Muffet
Bodies and Voices
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CARYN MIRRIAM-GOLDBERG
I didn’t want to go to yoga class Friday morning. I was tired, my head hurt, it was already friggin’ hot outside, and I was craving pastry. I settled for a banana and some coffee and got in the car, telling myself to go automatically or else I was liable to deconstruct the moment into sitting on my porch and checking facebook for an hour.
Twenty minutes later, rolling out my mat, half-smiling at the teacher, I thought of leaving. Wasn’t I a tiny bit nauseous? Didn’t I have too much work to do? Not so gently, I told myself, “Shut up, and go get your blankets and blocks.” So I did.
Nothing like bringing a backpack full of resistance to class to bring out whatever is hardest for me, and so of course, today was the day we spent what felt like hours in Downward Facing Dog, a pose I have long cursed up one side of me and down the other.
Front forward bends? Okay, I can take it although I do want to stop when my feet tingle. Upward Dog? Hard for me, but usually not held that long. Warrior I? Sloppy for me today but do-able. But with everything, we kept going back to Downward Facing Dog and holding it… for many breaths.
A tour through my backpack of resistance
Despite the resting pose status of this asana, it’s often dreaded by my mind and welcomed by my body. That’s to say that my arms ache, I can’t put my feet all the way down, my hamstrings are tightened to the point of singing in mild pain, and my neck sometimes strains although I know I shouldn’t be straining it.
I press down on the undersides of my knuckles, spread my fingers wide and do everything teachers have told me over the years: melt my heart toward the ground, breath into the edges, push down on my hands and stretch my back flat, bend my knees and lift my bottom. It still hurts, but not that kind of pain that screams, “Watch out! Injury likely!” It’s more of the “this-is-so-hard-I-can’t-do-it-I-can” variety.
I thought of leaving, grabbing my mat, and slinking out, telling the teacher later that I got a sudden case of the stomach flu, leprosy or the realization that I was supposed to be at a meeting. I thought of casually wandering off to the bathroom, then to get a drink of water, walking slow-motion back to the mat. I thought of collapsing into child’s pose, and after a while did, but then hiked my butt up again into Downward Facing Dog.
No, no, no, no, no! the ticker-tape of my thoughts
In the 90 minutes of this class that seemed to land on Downward Dog as the long chorus of an eternal drinking song, I went through all variety of No. Did I get to yes that day? Not exactly, but I got to Corpse Pose, where I fell prompt asleep and woke myself up with my own snoring.
Two days later, however, on Sunday morning, after I woke, bathed, drank half a cup of coffee and looked around at the mess that was my house, I decided to forgo cleaning and working for a while. Instead, and in honor of the recent passing of Clarence Clemons, I blasted the music of Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band and rolled out my mat. Without thinking, I went into a long Downward Facing Dog, having arrived, despite resistance and tight hamstrings, into a delicious yes.
It was still hard, but it was my hard, good landing into saying yes to this life, one dog at a time.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.