The Lovely Yogini

My friend, the yoga instructor, is fond of saying, “Listen to what your body is saying to you today.   Push it.  But respect what it needs today.”

I have been “practicing” yoga for a while now, practicing it in much the same way that a doctor “practices” medicine.  To improve and achieve better results in an art that has unknown depths and challenges and an infinite number of variables.

I began slowly and awkwardly, comparing myself to others in my class just as I did years before when I took up golf.  How could so many older and far less athletic women than I hit the ball so much further?  How could women who had never even made it through a Wednesday morning total body fitness class have such taut muscles and limber joints?  And how is it they, and not I, could get into that pose?

My friend, the yoga instructor, reminds me and my fellow yoginis that we are not there to compete.  We are there to do the best we can do, ourselves alone, on any given day.  What works one day may not work the next day. But slowly, surely, usually imperceptibly, forward progress is made.   Even with a few steps backward now and then, we get stronger and more flexible and more balanced and we are able to do things we never could before.

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about yoga when I started.  I am more clumsy than not and I typically look for the quick fix and the calorie burn.  I’d tried yoga before and given up quickly because I just didn’t seem to get much out of it.   I kept waiting for the kind of moment I had back in 9th grade French class somewhere in the spring semester when the struggle suddenly ended and I “got it.”  Yoga seemed slow and repetitious but I kept at it.   I carried on until my muscles had memory and my mind opened up to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, this was good for me.  And one day I realized that my half-moon wasn’t half bad.

There is a woman in my class who I have watched from day one when I admired her side plank, her half-moon and her pigeon poses from my well-hidden post on my mat in the back corner of the room.   I decided right away that she was the one I should try to emulate.  She is amazingly graceful, strong and flexible.  Not only is she the best student of yoga in the class, she exudes kindness and warmth and intelligence and goodness.  All demonstrated in the 10 minutes we gather before class and the 5 minutes after we dismiss.  We in the class do better when she is among us.   We are inspired to stretch a little further, balance a bit longer, smile with our hearts and to forego the daily to do list for being in the moment.

I know now that this woman suffered a horrific tragedy several years back.  The kind of tragedy which defines a person, a precise moment in time that changes one’s complete perspective about what life will be from here on out.   The exact instant one can pinpoint as changing all of life.  She has shared with me her story.  She told me that when that moment occurred, she did not think or believe or imagine in the least bit that she would ever recover and be herself again.  She will tell you that she is not the person she used to be.  She says that trying to recapture the person that existed before the moment that changed everything was pointless.   

“I went on like everybody tells you–going through the motions, taking a day at a time, making tiny steps forward and occasional huge steps backward until it finally seemed to add up,” she told me. 

And now she is the beautiful woman in yoga class.  Not the person she was then.  But the strong, flexible, balanced and charming woman who presides in yoga class in the front of the room to the right of the instructor.  She does yoga because it nourishes her and it challenges her.  She took it up somewhat late in life and it wasn’t easy at first.   But it was something she could do for herself,  surrounded by people she felt did not judge her or pity her or avoid her or try to placate her either.   She could go and do just what she felt she could do that day.  She could respect what her body and her mind and her soul had to say on a given day and adjust accordingly.

My friend, the yoga instructor, reminds us at the beginning of each class that we are not there to judge anyone or to compete with anyone.  We are each there to do the best that we alone can do on that particular day.   If I think of that, I better understand that people react differently when they are affected by a moment after which all perspective changes.   They respond as best they can.  They do what they can do.   They may focus on hardships and heart-aches  and disasters and crises for a long while.  But if they are able one day to let go of the struggle and carry on the best that they can, the muscles of their soul may remember and their mind may open just wide enough to let in the possibility that there is still goodness.  And maybe, just maybe, they can enjoy some of it.   They can get stronger and more flexible and more balanced and they will be what they never thought they could be.

Like my friend, the lovely yogini.

17 thoughts on “The Lovely Yogini

  1. Yoga. It is supposed to be healthy mentally and physically. I could never get into it. I think it is hard for urban rat race people in the West to quiet the mind like this so good for you. I still pump iron and maybe the focus is like yoga, huh? One think about pumping iron: It seems a hundred pounds weights 3 times as much as it did 30 years ago. Must be the molecules and global warming and such.

  2. I love yoga. I love the stretching and slow pace and the peacefulness of it. It feels wonderful. I haven’t taken a class in awhile. I do it at home but it’s not the same. Your post here inspired me to get back into class. It also inspired me to take one day at a time, no matter what is going on in life. But especially through hard times. I admire those people like the woman you speak of. I admire they have weathered a storm with such grace.

  3. I’m inspired to give it a try.. having always thought it wasn’t for me. I love the idea of coming into one’s own, in that new life after…whatever it is that has harmed us so. I think many of us have a defining moment like that. Wonderful post, as always.

  4. Yoga is wonderful, but I haven’t done it in years! What type of Yoga do you practice? My wife and I were doing Bikram’s yoga for awhile – she kept with it longer than I did. It is rather strenuous, but very focusing and meditative. Your post reminds me that I should get off my duff and do some once in awhile. 🙂 Nice post and great image!

  5. How lucky you are to have a person like this touch your life with their story of heartache and recovery. I wonder if you realize just how much you do this same thing for others?

    On a more mundane note, I did try yoga for a short while. Final score: Yoga 1, Al 0.

    Lovely post.

  6. “We are not there to judge anyone or to compete with anyone.” Wouldn’t it be nice if that was how women treated each other in everything they did? Perhaps the Beauty Industry would die if women didn’t judge themselves, or others, with such a critical eye.

  7. LOL – I know some Marines who exude kindness and warmth and intelligence and goodness. They’re flexible and graceful too. They’re very good at their jobs. I hope you get more confident with your yoga! Me, I will stick with tai chi. If and when I start.

  8. “But if they are able one day to let go of the struggle and carry on the best that they can, the muscles of their soul may remember and their mind may open just wide enough to let in the possibility that there is still goodness.”


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