I first learned about yoga when I was 11 or 12 years old. It was a book I found in the school library, small and yellowed, shoved to the back of one of the shelves. I don’t know what I was supposed to be searching for but I’m sure that wasn’t it. Still, being the pretentious little shit that I was, I had to borrow it once I saw the distaste on the school librarian’s face. Or maybe it had nothing to do with the librarian or pretentiousness, maybe it was the fact that in the middle of these pages filled with sketches of purposefully twisted bodies, I saw an unveiled reference to masturbation. C’mon, it was junior high during the year of the flood–certainly this was a book that would take me out of the armpit of Brooklyn.
My parents were no more pleased to see me with this book than the librarian had been. They were certain it would lead straight to a love-in loving cult, tabs of acid (LSD) jumping from the pages to my tongue. Strict in so many ways, but monitoring my reading material wasn’t one of them. Naturally this prompted in depth study and practice, and several renewals. I’ll tell you the truth, I loved it. The meditation, mindful breathing, the light in me recognizes the light in you, mention of the “Divine Spark,” all of this with the magnificent ways I could contort my body, I found… something. Thinking about it, I felt a similar this-is-right-for-me connection when I began blogging.
The first night of trying different poses in my room I saw a page illustrating the crow pose, and I was determined. Umm, you’re upside down, like you’re going to do a handstand, only you balance your knees on your elbows. Sort of, it’s been a long time, so don’t take my word as directions. My room was tiny, and just typing the words makes my knees and elbows chafe with the imprint of the royal blue shag rug, forehead thwoked into the wooden edge of my cot-sized captain’s bed. The first time I saw a yoga mat I thought the angels were singing. Freaking brilliant! Took me three days, but then I did it, the crow pose. Surely this meant I had attained enlightenment. Really, what I wish is that I had known people could train and become paid yoga teachers. Of course there were already yoga centers in the US, but not in the land of Saturday Night Fever, and I didn’t know about them.
I can’t say I stuck with it, but I have always returned to it. Never considered myself a yogi, and never had the budget or the confidence to take an official class. All at home, just me and the sketches/videos/dvds/youtube. Assorted dogs and babies climbing on me while I practiced through quite a few of those years, and a few years worth of beautiful mornings with Man Child doing it with me. The last several years though, different. Increasing problems with my back have limited the poses and how I do them.
And then last year I really gave up. I’ve been in better or worse shape at different times of my life, but I had never been this limited in my movements. If you can’t get yourself into a decent downward facing dog, what’s the point? More than the point was the embarrassment of what I could no longer do. Does it make sense to be embarrassed in the privacy of my living room when everyone else is asleep? Of course not, but there you have it, Fringeland. Along comes this winter, and my smack down from icy city streets resulting in assorted fractures. And then PT. I’m lucky, I was assigned the nicest, most supportive physical therapist I can imagine. Until this past few weeks, the exercises were all so small I felt like there was something wrong with the whole scenario. Despite these little baby exercises I was mocking myself for, it was hard. Surprise, Mrs Fringe, a pelvis with multiple fractures fucks you up.
Even though they felt hard, and I hadn’t worked out in a year, none of those initial exercises actually got me stretched to where I felt muscles stretching. Second surprise, those little make fun of myself for doing them exercises? They weren’t nothing. They made a difference, and my body wants more. Yoga sense memory, maybe. By the end of last week it finally clicked. I can go back to yoga. Not just my body, my head wants it. Maybe not all the same sequences I practiced a few years ago, but sticking to the small workouts assigned by the PT has allowed me to regain strength and some of the flexibility I thought was permanently lost. OK, it’s unlikely I’ll ever do a pigeon pose again, but we all know how much I hate pigeons anyway.
So, along with my new ankle weights and resistance bands, I’ve broken out the strap and block I bought over a year ago. I even broke down and bought a thicker yoga mat, which is making a huge difference. I was right, when I brought that book home eleventy thousand years ago, and chanted my very first om. I found something, and I can still find it.
Never got the hang of sequencing to appropriate yoga music with soothing water sounds and inspirational flutes, but old school rock takes me right there.