Recently I’ve been practicing doing yoga more often. I mentioned a few months ago that I had started incorporating some yoga into my weekly routine, but it never developed into a regular practice . Quite frankly, I had stronger feelings about peanut butter and banana sandwiches than I did about yoga. A few weeks ago, after being inspired by some of my favorite yoginis on Instagram (Patrick and Laura are particularly incredible), I had to urge to try some arm balances, and all that changed.
It all started with trying to master a basic headstand, and from there it evolved into things that were a little more fun. It took a few tries, and each attempt and subsequent failure was frustrating as hell. And then it clicked…
And it was amazing.
In that moment, when I finally kicked up into a forearm/handstand and straightened my body and pointed my toes and braced my torso and felt myself settling into this new center of gravity, I knew I had done it. It wasn’t a fluke anymore, it wasn’t a fleeting momentary achievement, it wasn’t a battle wherein gravity may topple me at any moment. I was going to stay up until I decided to come down. Staring out at an upside-down scene, I knew I had won the smallest of battles, and the struggle and tension fell out of my body. I stood there, feet in the air, breathing and staring and reveling in the feeling of balance – no flailing, no quaking, no leaning, no trembling, just peaceful stillness while my feet happened to be pointed at the sky. Suddenly the once-foreign posture was now familiar, and the fear of falling out of it was replaced by the freedom of all that I could do in it.
This was the kind of experience I had not had in years. When I was very young, I took dance classes (ballet and tap) and gymnastics. I had loved those classes because they were fun, and they blended physical movement with art and beauty and expression in a way that was both challenging and fulfilling. And that’s what had been missing for so many years. Any physical skill was valued in terms of the sweat and soreness it would induce. But here, on the mat, I was absolutely smitten with the process of mastering a physical skill for no other reason than the delight I found in the process…the same delight I found in ballet and tap and gymnastics. I was not doing it for the purpose of exercise, or health, or any aesthetic goal. I was doing it for the challenge and for the joy of overcoming the challenge and the elation of feeling my body express a freedom that no words can describe.
Not sure if there’s a moral to this story, but I think we could all use a frequent reminder that our bodies were made to move. Not in the sense that exercise and activity are a crucial component of physical health (although that is true!), but in the sense that movement can be art. It can be art, it can be a story, it can be delight, it can be freedom. We don’t all need to be dancers or gymnasts or yoginis, but we need to move in a way that brings us delight. Maybe it’s a walk, maybe it’s jumping handstand pushups, maybe it’s a pirouette. Whatever it is, do it. If you don’t know what that might be for you, then try new things until you find something that makes you feel alive.
And then do it for the joy of it.