I do not have the same body I had when I was 15. Or 25 or 35 or 40. Or even 42. In some ways, it’s a much better body now. In some ways, worse. Mainly, it’s just different. My weight has shifted upwards, away from my hips and legs. My arms have gotten stronger. Sometimes I am amazingly flexible. Sometimes, I am amazingly stiff. Some days, my wrists hold me up effortlessly in backbends. Some days, they can’t tolerate the slightest pressure. Some days, I bound around. Some days, I drag ass. It’s unpredictable mostly, attributable to phantom factors like diet, sleep and the weather.
If my body is different every day and changing with each passing year (month, week, day), then how can one yoga practice sustain me each and every day of each and every year? Trying to fit my yoga practice into a box, or even my exercise program as a whole, is just a form of denial. Denying my age. Denying my health history. Denying my needs. And that has to lead to suffering: unmet expectations, daily disappointments, physical pain.
Yesterday, it was terribly humid out. When I got on the mat out on my back porch, I felt leaden. My broken hand felt worse than it has been feeling. I couldn’t bear to put any pressure on my hand at all. And I couldn’t bear to do yoga without vinyasa. I was feeling sorry for myself. But I pulled myself up off the mat, got some hiking clothes on and went off to a 90 minute hike in the cool, tree-canopied woods. It was delightful, no surprise, and when I came home, I came back to the mat and did most of standing, effortlessly just because I wanted to. Then I threw in a couple of Second Series backbends and called it a day.
I look back on the days when I wouldn’t have thought of picking and choosing poses, when I wouldn’t have thought of running or hiking or otherwise using my legs in a way that might tighten them up for the next day’s yoga practice. And it strikes me as a form of masochism. But then I realize, there was a time when it worked for me. Of course, that was then followed by the time when it wasn’t working as well, but I tried to pretend otherwise. And then there is now.
The other day, I was talking to an Ashtanga-practicing friend of mine about the possibility of meeting for a practice at Yoga Sutra. She was like, “I thought you were done with Ashtanga.” I was like, “Well, I still practice YOGA.” Sometimes I do it at home, sometimes I do it at Bikram, sometimes at Jivamukti, and sometimes I go to a Mysore-style practice space.
Why try to define myself? Why try to confine myself with a definition of what I do and what I am? And why base that identity on a workout anyway?
I don’t know why.