We lasted 9 months in the deep burbs before we decided to move back. It took 4 months to sell our house. We lived in a furnished apartment for 3 more months in our old neighborhood in Arlington before we bought the house we live in now. I was ecstatic to be back in the old ‘hood and my old yoga studio, my favorite food places and old familiar faces.
I was different. The superiority on the mat was gone. I think the pain had taken it. I hummed with contentment to be one of many practicing in this studio. I no longer looked with false deference to the front row faithful’s. I no longer ranked my status. I could claim my space, my mat, my air and let you claim yours as well. I could walk with you side by side in benevolent conspiracy. It was . . . nice. It was like this big part of my interior life had been removed, and now there was this brimming space, like in a half empty warehouse. I could hear my soul echo.
I liked to lay my mat on the periphery of the room towards the middle of the wall, near one of the windows. I could claim the wall space to practice inversions towards the end of class. Also, when we were in corpse pose or some other pose where I could lay down, I got this view of a utility pole outside. It was a pole of thick deep brown wood and when I would lay down it would feel so imposing the dark brown against the blue sky and it looked so close to me like we were in the same trajectory or plane or something. But, it was also more than the color and the relationship of its angle to my prostrate form. The straightness of the pole almost reached out and imprinted itself on my vision, so that its straightness compelled something in me to wake up. Many times I had this impression when I would practice by that window.
A couple of things happened. One day, I had arrived late, I think, and had placed my mat towards the middle of the room. My mat was crooked, not aligned in parallel angles to the four walls of the room. My placement within the room itself had me looking out of the front windows of the studio but my view of the building outside was asymmetrical. I felt discouraged, I’d have to push my way through the standing and balancing poses. I looked down at my right foot, maybe about to do half moon, and I found my center. My own center, unrelated to my position on my own mat, unrelated to the position of my mat to the angles of the four walls, unrelated to the relationship between my vision and the outside world. I didn’t need my tall pole anymore. It was inside me now. In that cavern in my soul that never stops practicing yoga. It does all the hard work for me.
The other thing that happened is that the thing that stopped me from doing things I wanted to do started to erode. Or, more like, I started taking down that stone wall that separated me from who I thought I was from who I wanted to be. It only gets taken down one stone at a time. Like I practice yoga one pose at a time, it’s the only way. I don’t have a strong upper body so I would never even try to do most arm balances. Now I do, fear of falling does not stop me. Certainty of falling, does not stop me. Falling again and again, does not stop me. Because there’s something in the trying, that one day I realize oh, it’s not about the strength but about the balancing and something clicks and all of a sudden I’m in the pose. Without a time table, without expectations, without judgment of myself.
It turns out that trying is fun and funny. Mostly, I can face myself now. And, I know that pain is a part of life, but suffering does not need to be. Yoga keeps my soul tethered to my body and sometimes my body tethered to my soul. In either case, I am alive.
The works of Courbet (1819-1877), Manet (1832-1883), Van Gogh (1853-1890), Degas (1834-1917), Macke (1887-1914) and Peterssen (1852-1928) are all in the public domain.