Two years after I started a regular yoga practice at the marvelous Yoga Space on Ossington, the results were in; yoga had officially saved me. My body had been transformed, my life outlook had been expanded and enhanced, and for some reason I have yet to understand, my sleepwalking had all but stopped. Victory: me.
With yoga a suddenly vital part of my life, starting a home practice seemed like a no-brainer; it would eliminate the commute, I could do yoga naked (It was…okay), and I could create my own eclectic playlists (hello, Hammock, Hauschka, and Ulrich Schnauss). I had built a strong foundation, and was inspired, dedicated, and confident enough to make a go of it.
When I asked one of my favourite teachers for her advice on starting a home practice, and she locked me in her sights and said “Do lots of forward folds,” which we both had a laugh over, because the forward fold has always driven me completely bonkers. No matter how good forward folds are supposed to be for me, it’s something my body instinctively fights against; forward folds are uncomfortable, they annoy my lower back, and I tend to come out of them early, my patience for ‘breathing into it’ at a merciless end. The piece de resistance to my forward fold irritation was watching all the women in my class blissfully sail over their extended legs with a smug “Ahhhhhhh!” and elegantly hold onto their feet, as I struggled to fold at all. Another compelling reason to do yoga at home.
So armed with my trusty yoga mat, a large serving of discipline, and some good old-fashioned hutzpah, I started my home practice. Over time, I noticed that it didn’t feel the same… but why? I mean I was doing yoga, wasn’t I? Wasn’t that enough? And then, I had an Unfortunate and Epic Light Bulb Moment (unfortunate because the implications led to some pretty uncomfortable navel gazing); I realized was ignoring the poses I found troublesome and/or annoying in my studio practice. My home practice had quickly evolved into David-Benjamin’s Greatest Yoga Hits (let’s do triangle again, we really like that one, we’re good at it!), a very cold shoulder given to my nemesis poses. I then started to wonder if my resistance to tackling the irritating poses had a connection to my big picture life.
We all avoid things we’re not exactly thrilled by, right? People. Situations. Romantic comedies starring Katie Holmes. The shortcomings of my home practice got me thinking about my life… and then for some reason, about my relationship with kale. People say that kale is very good for you; I’ve tried several times to prepare it, but no matter what I’ve tried, every kale experiment has ended up in a bitter disaster and a silent oath of ‘never again.’ No matter how good it was supposed to be for me, I had exiled kale from my diet… not unlike the way forward folds had been exiled from my practice.
Hmmmm. Beyond kale, were there situations, responsibilities, or people I had cut out because it was easier? Had I gotten into the habit of simply exiling anything and everything I considered irritating? This seemed like closed behavior, and I thought I was trying to live an open life. Conventional yoga wisdom would have me facing my irritations; breathing and staying present through the discomfort until the resistance passed. Being gentle and compassionate.
I needed to face and embrace forward folds. I needed to face kale. I needed to breathe through my impatience, the feeling I was continually being tested… and just accept. Accept that a kale recipe that worked for me was going to be harder to find. Accept that my demonic hamstrings and stubborn lower back were going to require some gentle long-term breathing and stretching. Accept that it was going to be a while before I got to blissfully sail over my extended legs with a smug “ahhhhhhh!” and elegantly hold onto my feet… if ever. I had to accept the benefits of getting past the discomfort, of facing my irritations on and off the mat. It was time to take my home practice to the whole new level of life practice.
Life practice? Ugh. That sounded way too big; so I started small. I got a power yoga DVD with three different classes on it to help direct me into uncomfortable places and nemesis poses. Breathe. I spoke with a trusted foodie who gave me what she considered to be a fail-safe kale recipe. Breathe. I took a look at the crumpled to-do list on my desk, and started reconsidering the irritating things I had been avoiding; those shelves that needed organizing. The filing cabinet that needed sorting. The boxes buried way back in the closet that needed something, I wasn’t sure what. Breathe.
I forward fold at home now. These days, when the irritation hits, I breathe perfect key lime pies into my lower back. For some reason, it totally helps. Every time I pass by kale in the food store, we always check each other out; I still have that fail-safe recipe, one day I will actually get around to trying it. I guess the only reason I’m hesitating is after I have breathed through my kale resistance… what do I have to face next? It’s a long list… but it’s a wonderful life. Breathe.