One thing I absolutely love about my Yoga studio is the huge room they have for practice. This is where most of the classes are held, though they do have a smaller room for the less attended, more specialty classes. But the big room! so pretty, so much room to spread out and have space, except in those few wildly popular classes that I usually don’t go to anyway. The perfect room for the art of doing your own practice.
I race early to class each day so I am assured of getting near a wall. I need the wall because of my balance, or lack there-of. As I get stronger in many of my poses, my lack of balance continues to surprise me. I’ve made peace with it for the most part. I’m not young, I have leg issues, whatever. But damn! I wish I could settle into a comfortable tree pose, or the bliss of a graceful ardha chandrasana (half moon pose). Thank god for the wall as I steady myself, do the best I can and laugh.
Yoga. Acceptance. Starting where I am.
In Teacher Training we are using the small room. There’s plenty of space for us all, it’s a perfect place for the teachers to see and help us in our poses and for participating in meditation or a lecture. Lots of wall space in there too. The only problem? One wall is entirely made of mirrors.
Did I mention that the big room has no mirrors? Even though I have to stand at the wall, I don’t have to look at myself, be distracted by my own image. And that is very helpful. In the small room I spend a lot of time attempting to avoid myself, or at least the way I look. It’s impossible.
I’m at the age where I can be out having a great time, feeling like I look good and suddenly I’ll catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, or window and I’m stopped by: what? WHO is THAT? There is a disconnect in my brain between my chronological and physical age and perception of myself. I feel 35-40 and that is decidedly not the truth. It’s disconcerting to say the least, and sometimes? frankly horrifying.
People my age are OLLLDDD!!! I never understood what those old folks would say, how they didn’t FEEL old , how in their minds they were young and vibrant. I go to rock concerts, am up on contemporary movies and literature. I don’t listen to the classic rock station, nor have I suddenly established and affinity for the Big Band era, or worse, Rod Stewart, Sting, or Paul McCartney singing standards (WTF!). I date, but not lately. I don’t WANT to date those old men that ask me out! Why are they attracted to me? Of course, at the same time I lament the fact that men my age only seem to want 40 year olds. Insane.
I find myself having these thoughts more often than I would like. WHAT happened? really? Wait, I’m how old? what? I just walked upstairs in my apartment and got a little disoriented. Stairs? apartment? I had a house….
So now I’m in Yoga all weekend, looking at myself in that huge, wall sized mirror (unless I am leaning on it for support, which, frankly just makes it all the sadder). Ok, it’s a great learning tool. I can see my body as well as others in the poses, watch the adjustments being made. It’s helpful. But too often I find myself looking at ME, allowing that to take me out of my practice and the work. I’ll be sitting studying anatomy or philosophy and a sidelong glimpse of myself takes me aback. WHO is that? whose body is that, whose boney, droopy shape is that? Where did that plump, happy girl go, with the good skin?
The happy girl? I’m happy, certainly content with life as it is. I love Yoga and this experience I am having. I’m busy and involved in many different things. Life is pretty good right now and yet I’m still judging myself, looking at the outside, ego involved. “Release me from the bondage of Self”, a favorite and constant prayer.
I’m aging but vital and pretty hot if I do say so myself, particularly if you add “for her age”. But I don’t want to add that useless measurement of who I am and what I stand for at this point in my life. I have so many other things to point to as measures of who I am; my friends, my grief work, yoga, blogging, and so much more! None of which have to do with my age or appearance. Facing myself in the mirror is hard, but can also be liberating. I can see a strong body holding a difficult asana with grace and proper alignment. A look of joy on my face as I understand a confusing spiritual concept. Me sitting amidst others, working toward a goal.
Part of my spiritual work in this practice is self acceptance, allowing myself to be at ease with my limitations and to revel in what I can do. To allow that person in the mirror, to look objectively and not take her personally, not let her to ruin my day or my practice. I’m sure others in the group have their own struggles. There are different body types, abilities and ages in the group. It’s certainly easier to be all “yogic”, detached and spiritual when I’m not looking the corporeal realities in the face. But those realities are there in the amount of time I can sit without back support, remember often repeated anatomy and Sanskrit terms, and hold those balancing poses. Reality. Now.
I admit to wishing I didn’t have to see those things reflected back at me through the mirror. I wish we were practicing in the big, open room, the room that more resembles my heart and the expansion that yoga allows it, my mind and the blowing of it that this practice is affording it. But then where would be the lessons, those deep ones I am to learn? That self acceptance, that loving myself, that loss of ego, that quieting of the mind. Yogas Citta Vritti Narohda is a Sanskrit term that means “restraint of the modifications of the mind” . One of these modifications is memory, and not modifying it keeps me from being fully present. Am I not there, remembering a me that is not ME? (Oh I know, this training is getting intense!).
Be here now. Attah. Start where we are. This practice is so much more than the physical, it’s a mental and spiritual practice that is taking me to places I don’t necessarily want to go but it’s what I signed up for. It’s my deepest fears, and maybe my greatest joy. I don’t, can’t know. Perhaps a calm acceptance will occur through this reflection of self to self, the realities vs. the stories I tell myself. Maybe I will learn to love and accept that woman in the mirror, her years and her droops. I know I am learning to love me, my own self, who I am.
This song has been rolling though my head the last few days. It makes perfect sense to me….but damn, it’s classic rock. Sigh.