My Journey With Yoga
From an outside perspective, one could be forgiven for wondering if I took my cues from Goldilocks when it comes to practicing yoga: trying all of the styles, repeatedly, only to find one “too hot,” the next “too hard,” etc. … quickly moving on to the next, except that I never found one that was just right. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying.
When I say I tried every kind of yoga, I mean every kind, including pre-natal and laughter. I barely made it in the door of the pre-natal class when my pregnant friend outed my lack of fetus for all to hear: “She’s not really pregnant, you know.” From then on, the class was largely made up of, “Now girls, focus on your babies … and Sara you can …” Though I was humbled and in awe of the ease with which several of these heavily pregnant women maneuvered their way through the poses. It was, in hindsight, one of the worst yoga experiences I’ve had simply for the fact that it only managed to enhance my lack of connection with the practice, the instructor and my fellow classmates.
Laughter yoga, though deceptively simple in theory, is anything but. First, one must consider the fact that if you manage to convince a friend to come to class with you, though highly unlikely, they will quite possibly never speak to you again. Second, keep in mind that the term yoga is used loosely to describe a room of adults engaging in embarrassing and sometimes ridiculous behavior in an effort to incite laughter in themselves and each other. The “Pretend you’re in an elevator and someone just farted” exercise is about as far from savasana as one can get.
The commonality that ran through all the classes, from yin to vinyasa, from the opening “om” to the final corpse pose, was my inability to get beyond the frustration I felt over the absence and lack in my practice. Sure I was reaping the physical benefits like a tighter tush, but I wanted that proverbial spiritual carrot that I felt was being dangled in front of me every time I stepped into a studio. I wanted enlightenment and well-being. Devotees far and wide claim that it “changed their lives.” Who wouldn’t want some of that? I certainly did.
Thinking slow might be the way to go, I tried Hatha. Nothing. Faster. I tried Flow. Faster. Faster. Don’t stop. I tried Ashtanga. Still nothing. Maybe Bikram’s. It’s sweaty. Maybe Anusara. It’s Tantric-based. Nope. Nada. Maybe it was the instructor. I tried a man. I tried a woman. It became overwhelmingly clear that my g-spot did not seem to lie between my y-o and a-spot.
Instead of writing into Cosmo as one tends to do with this sort of dissatisfaction with an unfulfilling long term relationship, I ended up signing up for a yoga retreat in Tulum. At this point, I’d written yoga off deciding we’d be friends, but that there would be no torrid love affair. It simply wasn’t in the cards. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t have fun.
Except that fun was not in the cards on day one. It was, instead, an exercise in pseudo frustration, first in meditation then in power yoga (pseudo because one can only be so frustrated in paradise). Meditation had been an epic battle between me and my busy brain. “Is this right?” “How should I feel?” “My leg’s itchy.” “Am I calm enough?” “Am I peaceful?” “Breathe.” I spent the entire time obsessing about how I thought I ought to feel and what was the right way to meditate. Yoga was essentially a sequel with: “Is my foot in the right place?” and a “Will I ever look like Seane Corn?” thrown in for good measure.
After class, wanting to put as much distance between me and the classroom I headed for the labyrinth on the edge of the resort’s property. I’d read about it the night before while checking in. It said, “Labyrinths are an ancient form of walking meditation typically used for contemplation, centering, becoming fully present in the moment or tuning into universal wisdom…” Yes, please. Who wouldn’t want a helping of universal wisdom with a side of insight?
I stood at the opening, took a few deep breaths and tried to feel “spiritual.” I walked slowly. Immediately, as if on cue, my mind started up: “Am I walking slow enough?” “Should I look up or down?” “Do I feel relaxed?” “Am I meditating?” “Do I feel enlightened?” As I turned the first corner, completely caught up in my mental morass, I managed to stub my toe quite hard on one of the huge pieces of coral that made up the labyrinth. After I worried about the ramifications of swearing in a sacred place, it dawned on me that that was a wake up call. “Pay attention! You’re missing the point. You’re missing everything.” There I was on the edge of the ocean in paradise, but I was so caught up in my thoughts and expectations that I was missing it all and robbing myself of a potentially a-maze-ing experience. This message rang true with me in terms of meditation, yoga, and life as a whole. I kept letting the how get in the way of the why. The final words from the description of the labyrinth rang truest: “There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to walk a labyrinth, simply slow down, breathe, and follow your spirit.”
This isn’t a fairytale with a happily ever after. I still struggle on the mat and in life, as we all do. But whenever I feel my busy brain grasping frantically for the hows instead of the whys, I think of the moral of the coral.
Sara Kinninmont is a writer living in Vancouver, Canada. When not feverishly collecting frequent flyer miles or lavishing attention of her French Bulldog, Pork Chop, she channels the Eager Beaver and lives like she gives a damn!
Photo credit: bikeracer