Why I Keep Practicing Yoga

There’s sweat stains all along the black floors of the studio and a bead of sweat trickles down my nose too slow. As I rise to mountain pose, fold, halfway lift, high plank, low plank, upward dog and swing to downward dog, I watch the same bead of sweat and feel the bulb on the very tip of my skin at the edge of my nose. Fall, fall, fall… 

The bulb doesn’t fall. Once I get back to downward dog and I shake my head up and down and catapult the sweat down onto my towel below. I find an odd sense of accomplishment with the sweat stains I leave on my towel by the end of class. Saturation feels like achievement. In reality, the true achievement is all buzzing thoughts winding down into the feel of moisture and the pleasure of being told what to do. No thoughts, just heavy breath, move. 

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I’ve been practicing yoga for coming up on five years now (!). The funny thing is, I’m not even a particularly impressive yogi–I can’t do a headstand. I despise crescent lunges and chair pose. Half of the time, I don’t even feel like going to class. But I know once I leave and feel the breeze ambush my sweaty skin, my hair tangled and matted, my clothes successfully saturated in my own sweat, the sweet exhaustion of every single problem erasing itself for a full hour–that’s when I know it’s worth it.

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Memorable things I’ve done so far in life: I’ve lived on a boat for two months. I fell in love off of Craigslist. I moved to an unknown city. I graduated from college before either of my parents did. I met Junot Diaz. I packed everything I could fit into a car with the person I love and moved to a city we couldn’t stand to be away from.

What merges all of these experiences (minus Junot Diaz)? They are adaption. They are the bold embraces of newness and opportunity. They all roundabout to the fact that no matter who you’ve been, you can begin again.

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When I began yoga I studied the poses. I read up on astrology. I wore patchwork pants. I enjoyed paisley. I became a vegetarian. I bought books on chakras and underlined passages in ink. I practiced in my bedroom. I followed yogis on Instagram. I bought tonic water to suck bad energy out of a room. I studied spices and how they effect various systems of the body.

I also couldn’t do a half push-up. I was convinced I would never do wheel. I fell over multiple times trying to do a headstand fearful I may break my neck. I collapsed into child’s pose more often than I would have liked. I felt like the fat redhead in a sea of beautiful, perfect bodies. I hated pigeon pose. I hopped from studio to studio, free class to free class, to find what felt right. I bought a mat and a towel and gathered workout clothes. I lost twenty pounds.

Now?

I can do wheel up and down and up and down, though I draw my line at 2 times consecutively. My favorite pose is pigeon. I relish the stretch in triangle. I breath the loudest in the room. I see child’s pose as permission for others who see me to rest, too. I watch green students come into class in band t-shirts looking nervous glancing around for other bodies that look like theirs.

At this new studio, I like to stay in the back. I limit stimuli. I’m unapologetic. I don’t do what I don’t want to anymore. That also means I wear a bra and a cami and don’t worry about looking fat to anybody anymore.

I keep practicing yoga because it is the first practical hobby in my life that has resounded the truth that you can always begin again. You can always learn something new. Your body is adaptable, strong, and will always surprise you no matter what your mind believes.

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To get into my first wheel pose, a yoga student on the path to becoming an instructor had to yank my upper back to the sky and perch the top my head on a block. I told her I couldn’t do it, I could never do it, and kept telling her until she pulled me up.

It felt like a whole new world.

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