I am a yogi. Yes, I consider myself that, even when I am out of my practice. “Out of my practice” means I am out of time or out of sync or simply doing “other work” and I neglect my ritual of aligning my soul and honoring my body. I miss my “normal” then. I am most home in the dimly lit rooms of incense and meditation music. My body craves a bare floor, the thin mat, the awakening of my limbs and the flashes of wisdom that come during Savasana. Yoga is my best friend and greatest teacher.
A lifestyle change made going to my yoga studio nearly impossible because I took a great career position but one that made me a 9-5er.
For the first time in forever, I began to lead a sedentary life. Sitting behind a desk coming home to dinner and bed. After a year of this cycle, I was not only depressed in my mind and spirit but my body was soft and out of breath. I was desperate for the beautiful alignment of energy I was used to.
The practice of yoga had taught me so much about the merging of the soul with the physical body and with our mind. My current period of misalignment and deprivation taught me how powerful that alignment can be for every facet of our beautiful beings. Feeling out of alignment was awful. I was miserable. I felt sad, weak and started to become very negative and grumpy! I even found myself aggressive in traffic and eye-rolling at people’s comments. Who was I becoming?
I realized I felt complete restriction. Not only was I not moving my body, but I also wasn’t living to my full potential. My mind and spirit had no expansion. I was not only in a structured routine but in a sad rut! Time kept passing this way and soon I was in this routine for 2 years.
Something had to change. I craved fresh air and freedom but was often too tired to even walk in the park. I needed something- so I booked a vacation. It dawned on me one day as I carried my heavy briefcase into the office and got out of breath doing so, that traveling and carrying luggage may be difficult.
For some odd reason, Spirit directed me to start “working out”. Yes, working out… like at a real gym. “But, I am a yogi”, I thought, “peaceful and quiet in my practice”.
It was a silly moment… Part of me will never learn not to argue with Spirit!
So, of course, I found myself in the gym. Upon arriving my first thoughts were- it is very bright and few people are smiling and no one hugs you. Very different from the yoga studio and its loving community. Loud music is constantly pulsating- no Dueter or Steven Halpern here….
This place is about appearance and sculpture and the way you look to other people. It is about muscle definition and healthy bodies. It is about achieving goals and pushing limits, its about judgment and flaws. BUT in a deeper study, it has much in common with yoga. They both focus on sensation and teach you about your body and mind and soul …if you let them.
Neither one is good or bad, better or worse for you – it’s about what you need when you need and what works for you based on where you are in your life. I realize this is why Spirit brought me here. To see another side in my personal development. This is another significant side of my evolution. I open to the experience and decide to honor whatever wisdom awaits me here.
I accept, observe, explore and I don’t resist. I want to make the best of my time here in this bright noisy place and optimize this lesson. Since I am an extreme personality- I hire a personal trainer ( thank you 9-5 job). May as well go for it! I observe the synchronicity and irony in that.
Soon…Early mornings are spent on machines and doing squats and lifting weights. My trainer is as adept at seeing the signs and sensations of my breath and movement as any yogi. I tune in as I would in the ashram and find sensations and muscle energy I never felt before. My mind starts to open and my heart starts to connect as it used to in the slow methodical movements of a yoga flow just with a bit more speed and assertion. These are very different feelings and reactions but no less satisfying. It isn’t long before I find metaphor here for my life, just as I have for years in my yoga practice. Here too in the bright, noisy, crowded place, I find in myself the courage to try, the determination to push, the will to feel more and the awakening to understand what this is teaching me through my physical energy. My body becomes a blackboard for my mind, writing lessons on my limbs and muscles that are really for my spirit. I realize this primer has been the same for eons. My ancestors have learned the same way. For centuries man has struggled and triumphed on yoga mats and swinging hammers, through tai chi and weight lifting, by martial arts and Olympics. It is all the same.
Connection. Movement. Breathe. Life. Human. Body. Wisdom. Spirit. Alignment.
We find wisdom in the quickening of our breath and the joy of breaking boundaries. We realize life can be limitless if we choose to break the leashes we put around our own necks. When can’t becomes can even in the smallest way, we learn so much. We expand every part of ourselves in this place. The rewards are deep and personal. They put us in balance with ourselves and our own worth.
It becomes little about the waistline and the tight ass and more about our interior and self-worth based on strength and alignment with the gift of this precious life. Every breath every movement becomes a tribute of gratitude as we honor our whole body not just the physical vessel. It’s all so much deeper than that.
I am a yogi. I labeled myself that. I was intimidated by the bright lights of that gym. My yoga practice was so personal I thought it was reserved for those dimly lit rooms with exotic music and incense. I couldn’t picture myself sweating in the 3D world with a headset blaring music. Such judgment of myself served NO purpose. It is a lesson I carry over now to many things. Especially evident as I have “aha” moments on the elliptical with Eminem blasting. Those moments are no less profound than the ones I have in yoga with singing bowls aligning my flow. Life has many flavors- if you open your mouth to taste. We must open the mouth of our chi – life!
My trainer works me hard. Sometimes she will say “ok you are done” if she sees me in the challenge of a task even if I have a couple of reps left. I often say to her “NO, I will finish because I must honor my body.” Pushing limits is the same in every aspect of your life and it has wonderful rewards.
I remember the second day I was at the gym and my trainer took me over to the elliptical machine. I never did the elliptical in my whole life. I would watch others on it and just know I was the one who would break my neck and make a fool of myself on that contraption. With horror, I stood where she led me and I said “OH NO! That is the boogeyman of the gym”. She laughed but I was serious. She made me do it. I hated it, it was so hard! I feared losing my grip or footing and flying into the next aisle in a heap of vertigo and bruises. But something inside me made me want to conquer it and with her showing me I felt like I could. And as always when your mind thinks you have a chance- your spirit takes over and soon the body responds. And so, I did it, I conquered the “boogeyman”.
I have conquered many boogeymen in my life – but conquering that machine reminded me who I was. In fact, now I do about 30 minutes on it daily with no prompting I reach for it myself and kind of enjoy it. That is a wow! For years I have been safely restricted on a treadmill watching people on that Elliptical from afar. What a great lesson!
I look around my gym ( yes I said MY gym) and there are all shapes and sizes, ages and sexes. I don’t think working out is as much about appearance as people think. I think it is about mind and spirit for most people. Just ask the 80-year-old who treadmills and goes to Zumba.
Yoga was never about the way I looked. It was always about expanding my emotional and spiritual essence and becoming content and peaceful in accepting myself and others without judgment and anxiety. It teaches me to be strong in every way through physical movement. In fact, yoga taught me to detach from compliments and criticism equally. By understanding the difference between the real and unreal. No one’s opinion or judgment on my appearance makes any difference to me at all. For me, life became about feeling and sensation. Even what I take in my body for sustenance is not about taste but about how it makes me feel. I rarely crave anything when I am in alignment with my mind. body. spirit.
I had judged the gym to be unreal and superficial and in some ways, I feared it. I now love the gym and I have a goal that is a metaphor for my life. I find many of the same benefits I did from yoga just in a different flavor. I am building my physical body to accomplish this certain goal and will write about it when I have done so. I now have incorporated yoga into my routine too. How beautiful it is to cross the bridge to both.
I am not only yogi and not only a gym rat I am a beautiful human who no longer lives by labels or appearances. I now realize nothing is at it appears. Judgments are fear. Limits are illusions. And most of all it is not about how life looks but the significance it brings you when you look a little deeper and open to it!
Peace and love,