Tuesday, April 7, 2009
YOGA AND ME
My back has been killing me. It’s the beginning of the gardening season, so it stands to reason. I'm a gardener. I ‘warm up’ to the jobs I do for other people by getting my own gardens ready for the new year. I go from a winter of hardly moving, to the work of Hercules without so much as a single stretching exercise. Every year that I get older, it’s harder for my body to make this leap, though my mind still does it quite nimbly. My mind must drag my body behind like a great sack filled with rocks. I know this isn’t good for me, and that one day, I’m going to pay with crippling back pain. As it is, I have to have Ibuprofen available most of the time. Vodka seems to help. Plus, I whine a lot. So far, that serves as the Therapeutic Triumvirate. I know I should do stretching exercises, to say the least, but I have an aversion to it.
In 1968, when I was thirteen, yoga swept the United States. Growing up in Maine, I was largely oblivious to trends sweeping the United States, but I did find out about yoga. I had a paperback with step by step instructions for bizarre positions and poses. On the cover, a woman wearing a red leotard was twisted into a surreal pretzel shape. The author, Indra Devi, seemed so exotic! Like most thirteen year old girls, I was fixated on things from far away. I think I had a worse case than average, though. I also desperately needed to impress my father. In those days, my every breath was spent trying to get his attention and approval.
Carefully following Indra’s instructions, I practiced with dogged determination. I believed that if I mastered those poses, everything in my life would change; I pined for the transformation. I concentrated until I was able to sit in the Lotus position for an hour without moving. I could crouch on all fours and place my knees on the backs of my elbows cantilevering my body onto itself. I was so limber that I could almost turn my head three hundred and sixty degrees like an owl. Once I had conquered standing on my head for unlimited lengths of time, I decided it was time to show my father. My mastery was sure to impress him. Calling him to my room to demonstrate, I showed him Indra’s book. While he thumbed through it, I got into position. Without faltering, I raised myself from the floor into a free-standing head stand. I could have stayed that way forever. The room was quiet. I was sure my father was expecting me to waiver and fall, but I didn’t. I was so proud of myself! I could see him upside down when he spoke. “When you can suck a lotus up your ass, I’ll be impressed,” he said as he left the room. I maintained my pose, but I never did yoga again. Over the course of my life, I have spent a great deal of energy in other ways, twisting myself into odd and unnatural shapes while still trying to breathe.