Today's guest post is by my college roommate, April, who's way better at walking than a two-year-old.
One of the sad truths that I've come to accept over the years is that I pretty much suck at all sports. The worst day of the school year for me was always the day we had to take the New York State Physical Fitness Test, a component of which was doing squat thrusts until your arms and legs forgot that they were attached to your brain and splayed out wildly, causing you to collapse on the floor. At least, that's what always happened to me.
There were no tennis courts in the town where I grew up, and I held out hope that tennis was my sport until I got to college, signed up for tennis lessons, and discovered that it was, in fact, not. I can swim well enough to save myself if I should happen to fall out of a boat, but it's not pretty.
I am good at walking. I can walk for a long time, for long distances, at a decent pace, even up hills (we like to call that “hiking”). And so, I had sort of made peace with the fact that my physical activity of choice was always going to be one at which many two-year-olds are also competent.
Then I tried yoga.
I love very many things about yoga. I love that the walls of the studio where I practice are painted the exact color of Chobani key lime yogurt. I love that the part of each class that my instructors insist is the most important involves lying on the floor and being completely relaxed, often with a lavender sachet over one's eyes. I love that we all laugh together when someone falls out of tree pose or the teacher mixes up her right and her left. I love that yoga requires me to attempt, over and over again, to clear my mind of whatever concerns, lists or ideas might be bopping around in there and simply be present. “Tell your thoughts to sit at the edges of your mind and behave themselves,” one of my instructors says. I love that.
Now, lest you get the impression that the reason yoga is a great physical activity for me is that it's not actually very physical, here are some other things I love about it. I love that almost every class uses some muscle I didn't realize I had. I love how the poses send blood flowing through all my muscles and organs and leave me feeling awake and exhilarated and, against all odds, graceful. I love that I can now get up out of bed without my back hurting and climb stairs without knee pain. I love that it's looking like I may learn to do a handstand at age 44.
Maybe the coolest thing about yoga for me is that it's communal, yet totally individual. It's about finding your own edge and pushing it just a little. It's about paying enough attention to your body to know when it's time to come down into child's pose. It's about learning to recognize the quiet space inside. And it's always just practice. The person in class for the first time is practicing; the instructor is practicing; the crazy people with their legs wrapped around their necks in Yoga Journal are practicing.
I'm thankful that yoga helps me care for my whole self, that it's changed the way I perceive my body, that it's always just practice, never a big game, and that I no longer have to demonstrate my physical fitness (or lack thereof) in front of thirty of my peers.