Blog by Cole [Writer; Teacher; Downtowner; Ice cream enthusiast]
------ My name is Cole, and I am an expert in not practicing yoga.
I am not awful at practicing, but I am an outright expert in not doing it altogether. In fact, I’ve been not-doing yoga for about 6 months now, and for about 4 years before that. All told, I’ve probably not-done yoga for about 85% of my life.
Early last winter, I had established a fairly consistent yoga practice. I could feel myself getting stronger every day. Time on my mat helped me feel like I could beat back the winter blues, and I quickly became a regular. One night, late last December, I even got into crow pose and—at the risk of sounding braggy—I was able to hold it for almost one full round of breath.
Then I just stopped attending class. Fully stopped. I guess I got too busy, or it was too cold outside, or there was some other excuse I don’t quite remember. Whatever the reasoning, my fancy mat stayed rolled up and tucked in a corner of my closet for the remainder of winter. And all of spring. And the early part of summer.
Away from my mat, life kept happening, and fast. I traveled through Europe for a week with my boyfriend, and on our last night there, he proposed. Not long after our return, I changed careers. There have been other transitions, too: evolving out of certain friendships and into others, letting go of old projects, taking on new ones.
All the while, I would walk or bike past the yoga studio and think man, I should get back in there.
I’m a person who is always halfway trying to change something about my life. Lately, I’ve been trying to simplify and stop handing all the best hours of my day over to some kind of digital screen.
I think this is called mindfulness, though I never really seem to get it right. For the last week, I’ve been doing everything veeeeeeeery slooooooooowly, as if slowness and mindfulness are the same thing. Maybe right now they are. Maybe, I tell myself, slowness is what I need right now, and the pace will help me become more present.
For now I am slow, then one day I will suddenly be mindful. That’s the plan.
Last week, I finally got back in the yoga studio. I flopped my way through a Wednesday night class. Then I came back on Thursday, and flopped a little less, maybe by a fraction of a percent. My downward facing dog is still lousy, my hips are still remarkably unopenable, but I was there, trying. Practicing instead of not-practicing.
After Thursday’s class, I got a phone call from my friend in Seattle. She rarely ever spends a full day away from her yoga mat. I told her about my floppy practice and its two-day streak.
“Why do we ever quit doing the things that make us feel so much better?” I asked her. She’s great at answering big-life questions like this.
“Sometimes we just need a break,” she responded. “Don’t sweat it, it took me a full year of practice to feel good in down dog.”
A year! A full year. That seems like an impossibly long time to work for something you want, something that should be so simple.
A year is a long time to practice. It’s also a long time to not-practice. So there I was on Saturday morning, back in class for a third day, between sun salute and shavasana, present, slowly.