I’ve lived a very closed off life. I read many books and I write many things. Often, I write in a notebook that (heaven help me) will never see the light of day. This notebook, until I schemed to walk around in Yoga-land, is how I surveyed my internal landscape. This particular type of writing is pretty cut and dry. I sit down with this damnable notebook and I put my pen on the paper and about an hour later I get up and I’ve got clarity on something….a story I can’t hem up, a relationship I can’t hem up, a day I want to put to bed.
People respect this sort of eccentricity. Oh, she’s a writer. She’s tepid emotionally but she has a good enough grasp of the English language to thread some nice sentences together. That is if a story comes from the writing. Sometimes it’s just clarity. It doesn’t matter if it’s stream of consciousness for clarity to clear up a hinky story ending. Writing may not garner respect, but people understand it.
Now, when I started smelling like essential oils and talking about teaching this stuff, yoga that is, that’s when people wondered when I wandered off the warrior’s mat and onto the freak show stage. What in the hell am I supposed to do with that certification, anyway? Book gigs as a contortionist? That’s some hippie business if ever there was some, really. My dad doesn’t pretend to understand.
But my dad has plenty to say if I happen to miss a yoga class. And that’s pretty significant.
He doesn’t give a damn if I practice tai chi, teach people finger painting or walk on water on the weekends. What he does care about is my happiness. He noticed first, I think, that when I practice yoga I am happier. I am more free and comfortable with the rest of my life. My dad advocates his daughter’s happiness.
What is funny is that yoga, specifically, doesn’t make me happy. It’s something else. It’s this impalpable thing. Because I’ve been in yoga classes in which I couldn’t keep my eyes off the clock. I’ve been in yoga classes that flew by and that I wanted to have go on for another hour. I practice in my small room on my cat hair covered yoga mat and wonder what I think I’m gonna accomplish at three in the morning rolling around on the floor in a pair of Garfield panties and a dingy tank top.
I don’t ever necessarily accomplish anything. But every time I practice, without fail, I feel like a whole and entire person. I cannot explain it.
I have not lived an integrated life – ever. I have a beauty license that followed a nail technician certification. I sold real estate for six months and I taught aerobics. I sold home security systems. I sold an article to Play Girl magazine. We all know about my martial arts practice. I built my identity on these things, most especially my martial arts, as all my devoted readers know.
There are people who grew to know me based on this hologram I constructed around what I was doing at a certain time in my life. She’s a hairdresser, isn’t she f*ing cute with her electric eyeshadow and acrylic nails. She writes smut, bet she’s a wildcat in bed. Jujitsu team, she’s a wildcat in bed and she’s got a ferocious heart. Relationships based on what we do are superficial. But I put on these hats and as I see dimly once; seeing face to face eventually isn’t everything Saint Paul had in mind.
I do not hang my sense of self on the practice of yoga. But through its practice, I am more able to sense who I am in the larger scope of life. In this scope of life I don’t really seem to have much direction. In fact, the older I get, and the more certain I become of things that I do not want, I seem to be even less sure of myself than I was ten years ago. Appearances can be deceiving.
There is a process of recognizing what a person wants in their life based not so much on definitive answers of what they do want, but in discovering, sometimes through experience, what they do not want.
It’s the Not That game. “Well, I don’t what that, or that either. And I certainly don’t want to do that”, whatever that might be. This is how I’ve come to the place in my life in which I currently respond to stimulus. What we want is sometimes elusive. What we do not want can be as well, until it comes upon us. You may not realize you don’t want to actually run with the bulls until it happens. Then I bet forever and ever you can say with certainty that you don’t want that.
I couldn’t tell you why yoga works. But yoga works consistently. No need to focus on the negatives, like why martial arts wasn’t, ultimately, my bag, or cosmetology or writing smut. I tried it and something in me resists these things. I can say that yoga has turned up the heat in my life and that it has taught me how to let the steam escape. It may not seem respectable to someone who is ignorant, it may not make any damn sense at all.
But if yoga has taught me anything it is that it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. My life doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. Sometimes we just need to be turned inside out for the experience of it, to try it on and see how it feels. It’s not even passively being turned inside out. It’s willfully putting your guts on the table, deciding not to engage, to open up, maybe close off for a while, talking to your brains, holding your heart in your hand and promising not to let anyone squash it.
Yoga is an intimate affair. I still don’t have a damn bit of direction. I still practice stream of consciousness writing. On the outside I appear even more of a mess for this practice. But I feel way more comfortable in my own skin, especially when things get hot under the collar, because there’s a way to let off the steam. Yoga taught me that.
And one day, I’ll pass this lesson on to someone who is lost, smelling of essential oils and carrying around a bag of all that shit they don’t want. They can put it down beside their mat, and when class is over, they don’t have to pick it back up, just like I did that time.