Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Return of the Yogi

I did yoga tonight for the first time in five months… and I can feel the soreness right in the middle of my back. Actually, I was surprised I could settle into the asanas as well as I could, after such a long layoff. 

For some time now I've had the view that when it comes to an aging mind and and an aging body, it's essentially "use it, or lose it." Well, I haven't been using my body much lately (blogging calls for some dextrous finger work, but is hardly aerobic), and it felt good to do some back bends again (whether my back muscles currently concur or not).

I started doing yoga 12 years ago, when I was in a romantic relationship with Alex McGee, who was a yoga instructor living at Twin Oaks Community in Virginia. Though the relationship didn't last, the yoga practice did. Mostly I do it alone, either right before lunch or right before dinner.

For a time, I practiced first thing in the morning, relying on the stretching to awaken my body for the day. While that worked OK, I realized that later in the day worked better for me, for three reasons:

1. I was looser and could go deeper into the poses if my body temperature and metabolism were already in gear.

2. By picking a time mid-day, I could take advantage of 30 minutes of yoga to create a sharp contrast with the rest of my day—an island of calm and reflection amidst a fairly well-choreographed day. Thus, I'd get both the physical and spiritual/psychic benefits of the practice. I didn't need reflection time right after getting out of bed.

3. What I really enjoy first thing in the morning is a cup of coffee. Because I don't care to stretch after eating, it made more sense to do yoga right before lunch or dinner.

I'm better disciplined about doing yoga at home, where I have more control over my routine, a dedicated space (my bedroom floor) where I can practice without disturbing anyone, and access to my sticky mat (nearly essentially for back poses). When I'm on the road—which is a lot—it's much more difficult to find a suitable space.

How important is yoga? All I know is that I feel better and am more alert when I practice regularly. I slid into the yogic doldrums last May when I collected five boxes of paperwork and memorabilia from my old friend Geoph Kozeny, who passed away a year ago from pancreatic cancer. He had left the boxes at Hearthaven, a group house in Kansas City, and I had picked them up en route to consulting work in Lawrence KS. The boxes got "temporarily" stored on my bedroom floor and I didn't get around to dealing with them right away—in part because the Lawrence gig started a run of 60 days where I slept in my own bed only three nights. 

Being away from my friendly confines, I slipped out of the yoga habit and when I finally returned home in July I had no trouble at all thinking of other things I preferred doing over sorting through Geoph's old papers. Thus, the boxes just sat there and I didn't do yoga. Until today.

In the end, it took less than three hours to go through all five boxes, and I'm a little sheepish about how easily I had talked myself out of dealing with them for so long—one month per box. What a sluggard! Now though, the boxes are all put away, my floor has been vacuumed, and I've shaken the dust off my sticky mat. What a liberating day!

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