Sunday, November 3, 2013


There are many things I am good at. Yoga is not one of them. I can hike and run and bike and swim and roller blade and do cartwheels until the cows come home without exerting myself all that much. But yoga? Yoga makes me feel like the most out of shape person on earth.

I figure that is exactly why I should be doing it.

When I broke down and joined a gym last week (it was cold, rainy, and windy outside), I took advantage of the free fitness screening they offered to new members. The results were not surprising - excellent cardiovascular health and strength, good weight and body composition, terrible flexibility. That's what 6 months of backpacking will do to you! So I made improving my flexibility priority one of the fitness goals. I added more stretching to my daily workout regime and added 2-3 yoga classes per week to my schedule.

Yoga is, of course, perfect for improving flexibility throughout the whole body. My hamstrings, lower back, and upper traps are particularly tight post hike, and the yoga classes are great for targeting these areas.  After the yoga classes, I feel longer, looser, taller, and more limber. Which is great. But that's not the big reason I should be doing yoga.

In a previous post, I described myself as a doer -- somebody who cannot sit still. Somebody who always has to be busy. Somebody who finds satisfaction in getting things done. It is a character trait that is celebrated in our society. But maybe it shouldn't be.

Beware the barrenness of a busy life -- Socrates

Sometimes it seems that the busier I am, the more I miss out on. I remember last fall, when I was working so many more hours a week than I am now, I looked up one day and noticed that all the leaves had fallen and I hadn't even noticed the foliage. I've noticed the foliage this year. But I feel guilty about it. I feel like I should be doing more, getting more accomplished. I feel like I'm not doing anything worthwhile with my time.

According to Bhole Prabhu the ultimate goal of yoga is "helping human beings to become aware of their deepest nature."  The disciplines and techniques of yoga are specifically designed to "create a sense of inner peace, harmony, and clarity of mind." Yoga teaches us that enhancing our consciousness and mindfulness are far more worthwhile than keeping busy for the sake of being busy.

When I'm on the yoga mat, struggling to master the poses, focusing on my breathing, trying to keep my balance, I find that I learn more about myself than from any of the other activities I find so easy. I learn not just about my physical body -- where I am tight, where I have pain -- but also where I tend to hold my emotions. What those pent up emotions are. And why I tend to repeat patterns that bring up the same emotions over and over again. 

When I'm on the yoga mat, I'm able to stop being busy long enough to actually get something done.

TODAY'S THANKFUL: I'm thankful for yoga. 

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