Twice in my life, yoga has made an outstanding impact. I’m not a fitness geek; I’m not competitive and sometimes I’m not even sure if I’m goal-oriented. I just mosey along and do what I like and move on when it satisfies me. Or, more likely, when it doesn’t. I first found yoga in college: in the free fitness center that was always under construction. You had to walk down to the basement and through all the dudes bulking up in front of the mirror walls to get to the back corner, windowless room where you could finally – finally – get away from it all. The instructors were fellow students, none of whom I was familiar with, so it was accessible and private. I went to yoga every day. I would get up in the early mornings before class to make a session that had fewer than five people. The sequences were almost always the same, so I could simultaneously anticipate and let go. Sometimes my best friend and roommate would be on the mat next to me. Sometimes I’d convince a fella or two to try it out. Mostly I just went there to be anonymous and stretch my body.
It was challenging. I was constantly trying to contort my limbs into shapes I’d never seen before, use muscles I never felt before, sink my heart like I’d never before been asked to do. I thought I knew what yoga was.
My second year in Denver, a sweet coworker invited me to try out her yoga studio. She warned me it was a little different, but I couldn’t imagine what she was talking about. That first day in a sunny studio in Golden, CO, I found myself. I mean, I found my body. I’d been practicing yoga for maybe five years by then, and the minute I followed the carefully articulated instructions for alignment, it was like the moment you slip on the perfect pair of pants; the moment you taste that sweet potato white bean soup and think you’ve never had something so precisely delicious before. I parallel parked my hips and pressed my head back into my hand and something clicked within me that had never been sparked before. It was the Bowspring.
If you’ve heard me talk about yoga in the last few years, you undoubtedly know about the Bowspring. I’m obsessed. It contradicts some of the most widely taught concepts in modern yoga and, for those who have tried the technique around die hard yogis, you know it’s sort of scandalous. Anyway, it changed my body and my life. During one of the most grueling times of my adult life (see previous post), it provided a grounding experience and allowed me to focus on something other than the desperate girl inside of me trying to understand her life. Everything around me was mental and driving me crazy, but Bowspring was something tangible; I could control it, I could invite it in, and it felt damn good. Leaving my studio, which is the flagship studio for the Bowspring technique (and I do not take it lightly that I was able to study under the founders of the alignment), was one of the hardest things about leaving Denver. I knew my relationship to Bowspring as I had come to know it was over.
The Bowspring alignment has colored nearly every other physical aspect of my life — from sitting in a chair to riding a bike to playing with the dog. That’s what it’s meant for; to put us back into our ancient animal shape to promote lightness of being and boundless energy. But my home practice was lacking, because it is challenging work and my self-discipline is challenged by everything I let myself get distracted by at home. I never have enough time, I tell myself. And then, when the postures themselves get tough, I miss having someone encourage me on. There’s nothing like the Bowspring out West. In fact, because people out here are so serious about their yoga, alignment is really rather strict and particular. I found one lovely teacher in San Diego who was familiar with the Bowspring. I was able to chat with her after taking a class and at her encouragement I decided to try a local studio in town just to get back on the mat. Thus, the monthly challenge of yoga every damn day (or most days, at least).
It was going okay at first. I definitely needed a place to go in the evenings when some things were stirring up personally. Everyone at the studio was nice and I was able to tell them I do my own thing. They were interested in hearing more, but the minute I started explaining it their faces would fall; they were an “alignment-based” studio and I quickly felt that there was no place for “doing my own thing.” Then I thought, Maybe I’ll try their alignment and get back to the yoga I knew before Bowspring. I was so tight in my hamstrings, because Bowspring doesn’t to forward folds and straight knees in order to keep the desired curve in the lower back. I didn’t particularly enjoy doing the moves or even my modifications and I didn’t find it very challenging, other than fighting the pain – yes, pain – trying to stretch out my hamstrings. The physical practice wasn’t shaping up to be something I wanted to spend my time doing.
Then I zeroed in on something else yoga teachers are prone to do: speak very spiritually and very heady. To push my discomfort into the background, I tried to focus on what they were offering. During one particularly taxing yin class, I found everything that came out of the instructor’s mouth to be completely … trite. I think there’s an important truth to be heard when we’re in that bitter space in our own minds. When Judgmental Bre turns up the volume, I’ve been trying not to stuff her down. I don’t enjoy being a negative person and if I share these thoughts it’s almost exclusively with my mother, who is like talking to an older, wiser version of myself in the mirror. But I learn a lot about myself by tuning into those sour thoughts. Particularly, I have learned some of my triggers (so they can be dealt with) and exposed things that really don’t feed my soul (so that I can move on). This is incredibly important for me because by now we know I stayed in a job that made me incredibly unhappy for six months too long and for very few reasons that could hardly be interpreted as well-thought-out.
So, I’m standing on my yoga mat after a sequence of sun salutations instructed entirely by the corresponding sanskrit names for each of the poses and the teacher attempts to connect with each one of us as she says something she hopes we’ll find moving. My affect is flat, heart sunk, mind blank of all thoughts except one: This is so boring.
In that moment, I knew I didn’t have to do this. I didn’t have to come to California for sun and fun and waste my time in a mental state like this. They didn’t deserve that poor energy, either. I started to wonder when yoga stopped being “my thing,” and I realized it didn’t matter. We are constantly changing and evolving and we know this, and yet we still try to stuff ourselves into pristine little shapes. I definitely always thought yoga was in line with my lifestyle, and who is a mindful, fit woman these days if she is not a yogi?
In a spare moment, I googled “yoga is boring” just to see what would come up. I found tons of click bait articles about how to make yoga not boring, or how to push past the boredom into enlightenment. Really? If you don’t like a thing, don’t do it! Why do we need to convince ourselves it’s worth doing? The thing that annoys me about the wellness industry these days is that they forget that everyone is an individual collection of energy and cellular activity. Meditation is not for everyone, although it brings satisfying results to many. Giant green smoothies, magic elixir dusts, warm lemon water in the morning, raw food, whatever this week’s trend is DOESN’T HAVE TO BE FOR YOU. I like to try a thing, evaluate it, decide whether or not it’s worth my time, and either explore it some more or ditch it outright. I don’t love meditation, and I don’t love yoga. There; I’ve come clean.
I still love the Bowspring, though, and if I truly desire to have it and all it’s personal benefits in my life, I’ll find a way to make it work. I also love walking, and riding my bike, and crawling around on the floor with the pup. I like going upside down and doing back bends and, most of all, eating food that makes me feel good. Somewhere out there, yoga is someone’s self-care. It’s okay that I’d rather talk to the dog, or my mom, or myself.