Yoga, Yoga, Yoga and More Yoga or What Am I Doing?

I think it was in 1988 that I decided to listen to my gut.  Not for the first time, but I had a therapist, who was, get this, a yoga instructor, and all I did in therapy with her was learn how my intuition revealed itself and then how to listen to it instead of all the other thoughts/voices whatever.  (This was, by the way, the only therapy I’ve ever really liked.)  It seemed since I spent a year learning this thing, I might as well use it.  So I replaced my five and ten year plans with intuition.  (I was in my twenties at the time.  Are only 20 somethings dumb enough to have five and ten year plans?)

Anyhow, I’d lived in Spain and Japan by then, so being un-American enough to give up the relentless goals of those plans was almost perfectly fine with me.

Thing is, living by intuition means that I know I have no f&*#ing clue what I’m doing.  I just get an intuitive feeling about something, I do it, and then hopefully I figure out later why I did it.  (Or I invent something to make myself feel better.)

It’s a more interesting way to live, a more adventurous way, unless it’s totally insane, which is always possible.  I mean, think of the Buddhist construct theory.  Was it even an intuition?  Does intuition exist?  Is my insane mind even capable of discerning intuition from, say, compulsion or addiction? Probably not.

But, I figure, who else gets a solid year of training in intuition?  So, insane or not, whether intuition or me or anything exists or not, I spent all that money, back in 1988, so I’m going to listen to my intuition and see what happens.

So I intuitively decided to do the latest endeavor, yoga teacher training.  I’d been studying yoga with the teacher for maybe a month, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know what I was getting into (it does not take me a month to figure out another teacher’s style, talents and weak points…more like an hour, if that, because I am intuitive).  At the same time, I can’t really see myself teaching yoga.  I LOVE doing yoga, and I like making it part of acting classes because opening up the body for actors is invaluable, but just teaching asanas (postures) doesn’t feel like something I would ever want to do.

And the training is expensive, so doing it for the hell of it, or simply for self-improvement, considering my income, seems…well, insane.

Living the intuitive life.  Having no idea what I’m doing.  Humility, anyone?

So, my worst case scenario for this class is that I would re-activate an area of pain (I can’t say injury, in spite of being in 4 car accidents, because I’m still on the John Sarno back-pain-is-caused-by-unconscious-rage plan) and wouldn’t be able to do the very strenuous physical part of the training.  And it is STRENUOUS.  The teacher is brilliant, she has good time management, great classroom management, incredible skill in teaching alignment and the correct way to do postures.  But we also hold Plank for about 3 millenium, not to mention Up Dog.  It’s harder than any normal flow you could ever do.

Of course, my life has been on a worst case scenario track for some time now, so it should come as no surprise that I re-activated my lower right back issue on the first weekend.  Because of John Sarno, I have had to examine my unconscious rage.  The interesting thing is that of course there was some–this is ME, remember?  I am homicidal on my best days.  But the new thing from my more recent Sarno readings is that there’s an extra step.  You don’t have to just examine your unconscious rage you have to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  Like, change your life.

I have been thinking about ahimsa.  It’s the ethical foundation of yogic philosophy, and it means non-harming.  In other words, don’t do the strenuous yoga class like a big go-getter raised by a competitive Irish father (who was offered a football scholarship to Notre Dame and played halfback until he blew out his knee).  Don’t keep putting tension into your body to “get it right.”  In other words, yoga is about ahimsa, starting with self.

Today I was thinking about a very simple thing–do people who are not f-ed up investigate yoga, Eastern philosophy, meditation, Joseph Campbell, couples therapy (ala Christopher Durang or not, with a Stork or not), etc.  It’s not like I’m uncomfortable saying that I’m screwed up.  I am gloriously screwed up, fascinatingly screwed up (at least to myself), charismatically screwed up.  And it’s not really a question of whether there exist people who are less screwed up than I am.  I have a friend who has many of my personal strengths–compassion, commitment to social justice, integrity, decency, kindness, honesty (those are for you, Karen…see, I can say my good points!), but who significantly lacks my capacity for drama and taking things personally.  She’s not an artist, so I can love her even while she holds up this mirror of good points minus worst flaws, because I get to add unbridled creativity to my side of the scale.

Anyhow, the point of this is that clearly there are less screwed up people.  But my friend is screwed up.  This makes me happy.  Because I can live in world of less screwed up people, but not in a world in which there are people who aren’t screwed up at all.  Which is good, because I haven’t met any of those people and I’m sure my capacity for drama would amplify around them.

Anyhow.  Ahimsa.  Non-harming.  Even though I’m still grieving, I have been working with my worst case scenario.  For one thing, we had endless anatomy this weekend in the training (I remain the typical gifted child, who only wants to learn what interests her, which has never included science), and we went around and looked at injuries and how to modify yoga to practice ahimsa.

Here’s my thing–I can’t do Virabadrasana I (warrior 1) without weeks of pain.  I’ve asked teachers I really respect to modify the pose to no avail.  It might seem like common sense to just not do Vira I, but I have never claimed to have common sense and I’m not starting now.  But, when 20 other yoga teachers in training answer the question, “What would you tell a student with this problem?” with a simple, “I’d tell her not to do the pose,” even I have to wake up to the great need for ahimsa in my life.

Good-bye lessons of the ex-halfback of Notre Dame.  It becomes clearer by the moment that my Irish father’s lessons were no better than my German mother’s.

Maybe I am taking the yoga teacher training to learn ahimsa.  Because the fact is, while I love yoga, I can’t do it as my solo exercise because when I do I’m always in pain.  I have to mix it up with weight-lifting, which is terribly non-yogic.

And I find, that while I still don’t know why I’m doing this thing, I’m getting super interested in the differences between people’s bodies.  For example, I realize that I know exactly which poses really help my body, in alignment, in stability, in strength, in opening.  And I also know that there are some poses that just suck for me.  I am getting interested in doing only the poses that I know make me feel great and seeing what happens.  Like, healing, I bet.  And what if I could do this for other people?  The great yogis did this–individual prescriptions, sometimes asanas, sometimes meditation, sometimes ayurveda.

I’m interested.  I’m curious.  In the middle of grief.  Something to be grateful for.  Something to recognize as grace.

Plus, I went to an easier class today, which was AWESOME and made me very happy because I can now do handstand against the wall.  Which is very cool.  I can almost do headstand.  These asanas don’t hurt me, and they’re fun, and I get to show off to my non-yogic friends which is very unenlightened of me.  The showing off.

The great thing about being screwed up?  Getting to enjoy things like showing off.  And as long as I’m going around telling everyone how screwed up I am, I can keep right on showing off.

I am too cool for words.  And smart, too.

If not very yogic.


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