When I learned that we are to explore an independent learning project in Dig Lit class, I thought to myself, “Did the professor read my mind?!” For the longest time, I’ve been meaning to get back into yoga, an activity that I have sporadically practiced the past six or so years of my life. Yoga is extremely rewarding, but also physically and mentally taxing. Sometimes, it feels like the pain outweighs the payoff. Even so, yoga has never failed to reveal some new aspect of my being to me, most notably the fact that I am not naturally flexible. Like, at all. The doctor even told me when I was a child that I was considerably less flexible than the normal person, and yoga manifested this statement to me in a real way. Still, I push on.
Most people know that yoga is a principle of the Hindu religion, and is an active form of meditation. Sometimes, I feel like a hack when I practice yoga, because I am neither Hindu nor the kind of person who is good at meditation. Most of the time, when I’m trying to clear my mind and concentrate on my breath, I end up thinking about food. But still, the physical benefits of yoga are clear, and, even though I may lack natural flexibility, I can always attempt to develop some artificial bendiness.
Even though I may not possess prowess in the art of meditation, I find my overall mental state is improved when I have been regularly practicing yoga. I have more patience, and a better developed sense of when I should say something and when I should probably keep my mouth shut. I am more at peace with myself, mostly because I think, “Hey, I did yoga this morning. That’s enough accomplishment for the day.” Also, when I practice yoga, I feel trendy and counterculture, like the kind of person who non-ironically wears socks with sandals and owns roughly 14 items of clothing that are made of alpaca wool.
Another important aspect of my life, distance running, is intrinsically tied to the practice of yoga. Distance running, in its essence, is all about breath. Once a runner learns how to match their breath with their stride, they can run forever. In yoga, one of the basic principles is coordinating breath with movement, which takes a great deal of mindfulness. When I’m inverted into headstand, the most prevalent thought in my mind is, “Wow, I didn’t know so much blood could pool in my head!” and I’m usually not too mindful of my breath. However, when I manage to match my breath with my movement, I am not only a more successful yogi, but I am also practicing the most basic element of my favorite sport.
Lately, I’ve made a sort-of-but-not-really New Year’s resolution to practice yoga a few mornings a week. I haven’t regularly practiced since my senior year of high school, and the going has been a little rough. Most of the time, I think, “I can’t believe I used to be able to do this!” but every day gets a little easier, and my tragically stiff body get a little more flexible. Now that I have chosen yoga for my independent learning project, I vow to practice at least four mornings a week, for about half an hour (and by mornings, I mean around 9:30-ish when I’ve already gotten to eat breakfast and take care of my Sims). I am excited to see where this journey of yoga will take me, and what positive changes I will hopefully notice in my running life and my regular life. Maybe, I’ll be able to finally touch my toes.
Yoga position that I think is called the plow, but then again, it’s been a while since I’ve practiced. (Photo CC by Alexandre Huang)