The Accidental Yogi: The Intentional Yogi

Isn’t time funny? Like how every year, Christmas seems so far away and then, two seconds later, it was last week. Nothing left but a sprinkling of dead pine needles and a few shards of those Saltine toffee things you only eat at Christmas. (Why do we only eat those things at Christmas? They’re so good!)

This time a year ago, I vividly remember opening Facebook and finding something that gave me a spontaneous case of Tourette’s. I had entered one of those contests nobody ever wins. Except, I won. A full freaking year of yoga. Did I mention I don’t do yoga? Or anything else resembling exercise? Nobody ever wins those things. And even if they did, there were 100 other schmucks lined up to not win. But I won. Cassandra, the studio owner, immediately dubbed me The Accidental Yogi. She got that right. 

As a confirmed lazy person, the thought of a whole freaking year of regular exercise lodged in the pit of my stomach like a medicine ball. There was a contract to sign and regular classes to attend. If I accepted, I would be committing to a whole lot of exercise, and to telling you how it went, good or bad. I decided that if Cassandra was willing to open this door to me, the least I could do was go in. Plus also, I really like free stuff. 

Now here I sit, at the far end of the year, all the fear and dread and angst faded in the rear view. It’s the point in my journey where you might be wondering how it went. How I mastered the Headstand and perfected my Crow. Or maybe you’re a pessimist, and the ending you expect to hear is how I bailed on the whole ridiculous experiment and eased right back into the butt-shaped groove on my couch without ever even figuring out how to do a proper Downward Dog. Like everything else in life, the truth is somewhere in between.

Turns out, I stuck to my commitment for the whole year. I showed up at least twice a week every week that I wasn’t out of town, sick, or injured. Lots of weeks I showed up four times. There was even that one week before my 55th birthday that I showed up every damn day. I was very proud of that week. But you know how pride goes. Two days later, I pulled out my back and ended up in physical therapy, which, ironically, turned out to be yoga.

Point is, I tried. I really tried. I did the work. I wore the bras with the 87 straps. I planked and pigeoned and triangled and treed. I breathed and bowed and namastayed. But still, I don’t know that I can say I’ve mastered anything exactly, certainly not a Headstand or a Crow. Which is a little discouraging, I won’t lie. To work so hard and still feel like a beginner. The fact that I still think of “doing yoga” almost entirely in terms of exercise is probably a dead giveaway that I’m still a beginner. I guess that’s why they call it a practice.

So, let’s turn our attention to what you can achieve in a year. Last January, my toes were a good 12 inches farther away. Today, I can Forward Fold and there they are! Right at the ends of my fingers, where they belong. I’m still not what anyone would call flexible, but I’m definitely more flexible. Since my grandmother died with a spine the shape of a question mark, it’s probably safe to assume that the more stretching I do, the better I’ll age. I’ll never be a pretzel, but at least I’m pliable.

Before I did any yoga, I thought that’s what it was all about: being bendy. Which is one of the reasons it scared me so much. How is this unbendy person supposed to do all this bendy stuff?

Well, I learned that yoga is probably just as much about being strong. Which I’m not so much either. But I’m getting there. I will admit, I have sprouted a muscle or two this past year. There are places that used to be soft that are now firm. Places that used to just sit there that have perked up a bit.

I still have a nice, soft little belly if you ever want to rest your head. But under it? Girl, my obliques are harder than AP Calculus. And you know those muscles that travel from your shoulder to your elbow? I have those now. I’m not sure what they’re good for, but if I ever have to muscle my way through a crowded city street, I bet they’ll come in handy.

A year is long enough to work your way through the entire sampler platter of classes and figure out which ones suit you best. For me, that means a big no to warm* classes (if I have to exercise, I’m doing it as close to an air conditioning vent as possible) and an enthusiastic yes to Clay’s Monday Night Funky Flow. There are probably people out there who would really dislike this class. People who like a serious, silent, meditative practice. This is not that. This is the anti-that. The soundtrack for this class ranges from Pink Floyd to The Cure to Sting to Shaggy. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do yoga to a pulsing reggae beat?

After missing a Monday or two, Clay welcomed me back with a huge smile and a, “Hey, you’re back! Now the whole gang’s here!” (I’m part of the gang!) But the best part of his class is how it ends: Savasana with Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe, scented oils, and a “shoulder adjustment” that I prefer to think of as a teeny tiny massage. It makes all the work worth it. I don’t know why all yoga teachers don’t do the touching, but I really appreciate the ones who do. (I’m looking at you, Farida.)

Even for the class that I like the best (see above), after working all day and getting home to my cozy house, it’s an effort every. single. time. just to get in the car and make myself go. And promise you won’t tell anybody? I still don’t really like to exercise. Yoga is hard work, y’all. I just have to get my mind right, think of it as a gift I’m giving myself, and push on through till Savasana. When it’s over, I’m always glad I went. Always.

I still watch way too much TV and eat way too much sugar and never pass up a glass of wine. I’m still going to cuss you out (discreetly, from the safety of my car) if you cut me off or turn without a signal. I still engage in recreational worrying and get cranky at four-year-olds for acting childish. Yoga isn’t magic. It’s hasn’t cured me.

But it has improved me. It’s given me more confidence, more agility, more flexibility, more energy, more balance, more muscle tone, and more strength. It’s made me feel healthier, younger, and maybe even a little bit happier.

Best of all, it’s made me feel like I belong to a really wonderful community: The Floating Lotus family. The word yoga can be translated to mean union. In a world that feels like it’s been run through a paper shredder, being united in a harmonious and supportive environment is practically medicinal.

It’s a new year, and time for the really hard part to start: ponying up for my own classes. Remember how I freaked out when I learned I won, a year ago? What I wouldn’t give to open up Facebook and see I won a free year now. Isn’t time funny?

*Warm = Hot AF

Monday Night Funky Flow is one of our Basic Flow beginner classes. We’d love to see you there, and you might even get the chance to say hello to Susan!

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