Sobriety, yoga, and the art of looking like a fool.
I’ve been working on getting back in here and writing again, but it’s funny how the longer you put something off, the more excuses you seem to find not to do something. Today I finally decided to sit down and do a bit of writing. My goal is to hopefully get back on here and do this a little more often, let’s hope I can stick to it.
So I consider myself to be a pretty fit person. I run, go to the gym regularly, eat healthy and pretty much strive to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This isn’t always something I’ve done, especially during my years of drinking, but as I continue in sobriety I’m beginning to see the importance of taking care of myself in all areas of my life. Right now my schedule consists of weight lifting and/or cardio 4 days a week with a fifth day, usually devoted to a light jog followed by about 30 to 40 minutes of yoga/stretching. Now, I should mention, I work out at the base gym, on an Air Force Base. Typically I plop a mat down on the side of the basketball courts - as much out of the way as possible - and start my routine. As a 30(ish) year old man, in the middle of a military gym doing poses with names like downward dog, crane, warrior pose (which sounds fitting, but really looks a bit goofy) and a myriad of other seemingly embarrassing stuff… you can probably imagine the kind of looks I get. This often leads me to questions like:
Why do I do it?
Why not just say “forget it” and go hit the weight room for day number 5?
There’s a couple obvious answers to these questions.
1) We’ve all heard about the benefits of stretching and flexibility and how they are supposed to keep us feeling healthy and young.
2) We’ve also heard about what a great work out yoga is and how it can help to lose weight, relieve stress, etc. etc.
The obvious rebuttal to answer number 2 is in my second question: “why not just hit the weight room again?” I mean, if the goal is to trim down and build muscle, weights and cardio seem like a better way to go, and a hell of a lot less embarrassing. Answer number one is a very valid point when it comes to a yoga practice and it’s one that gets many folks to try yoga that would otherwise never try it. But I think if that’s the only reason you do yoga, you may get some benefit from it; and yes you will definitely gain some flexibility, but this - to me - is a somewhat superficial and empty approach to yoga. If you do yoga merely for the benefit of flexibility, you’re only scratching the surface of what this awesome practice can do for you. This leads me into answer number 3, and the reason why I maintain a yoga practice:
It’s a form of meditation. In fact, the lotus pose - which is used by many as the ideal pose for sitting meditation - is a yoga pose. If the lotus pose is a meditative pose, than why not warrior, or downward dog, or tree, or any other pose for that matter? While sitting meditation is a great way to work to quiet the mind, some of the more difficult moving poses, balance poses and the like, are great ways to reconnect with the body. We are as much our own body as we are our own mind, and yet we seem to focus all our attention on meditating the mind that we forget the rest of our parts. As I do yoga I bring that attention and awareness from sitting meditation into the body as I hold each pose. In downward dog, I focus on the stretch of the hamstrings and the flexing of the shoulders as I hold the pose. When I move into warrior variations, I focus on the strain in my thigh as it works to support the weight of my upper body. When I move into balance poses, such as dancer and tree, I focus on all those muscles in my legs fighting to keep the rest of my body in balance.
The point; and the most beneficial aspect of maintaining a yoga practice is: I train myself to be more calm in tense situations. I’m able to stop, take a breath and look inward for calmness, stability and even serenity; which is something I could never count on during my days of drinking and chaos. Or, to put it in AA talk, I’m able to “… think, think, think…” and I’m more equipped to “Live life on life’s terms”.