In the first six months of the pandemic while struggling to acclimatize to the uncertainties that lie ahead, I began walking. It was the most effective way to fill my day. I didn’t listen to music or talk on the phone. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone along the way. For hours at a time I put one foot in front of the other marking a giant perimeter around my centretown neighbourhood. My walk route would change from time to time, but inevitably I would find myself tracing the waterways of my city and the glimpses of nature provided there. I walked until the blisters on my feet oozed with infection, but I could not bring myself to take a day off. I needed the movement, the fresh air, the distraction.
Historically in my younger life during times of unemployment, I would use the time to
nestle wrestle more deeply into my yoga practice. It was a tough discipline to get myself to the studio and sweat out my boredom and frustration, but I had nothing else to do and a single class could occupy me for two hours or more—depending on how quickly my legs carried me to and from. The practice has always been a love-hate thing for me. The love was for the release of hormones and the surge of endorphins that made me feel so alive. The hate was for the anger and frustration that frequently bubbled up through my body as the heat began to rise from the physical challenge. I never knew which sensation a practice would bring—love or hate. The fear of not knowing, or not being able to control the outcome, pulled at me strongly and it was often a fight to get myself to the studio. When I succeeded it was because the threat of boredom was stronger than the ominous emotion that lay beneath the dullness of my life at the moment.
This fight has been ongoing for the past 22 years. The toughest were between years two and ten. How did I do that? Eight years of wrestling my way through a practice I love? What do I love about it? These are very difficult questions to answer. I guess it’s the lightness that I feel in my body after having tangled with the demons of my emotional self. Win or lose, there is a general satisfaction in having engaged. On the days I opt not to fight it out I feel comforted by my melancholy. Like an old friend, I can snuggle up with her, allowing her weight to ground me in the stillness and rest that comes with inaction. It’s wonderful to have the relief of life’s pressures for a time. But then restlessness propels me back to my mat. The tick-tock of these two extremes has been very tiring.
I brought my practice home early on, but relied greatly on the community of the studio to keep me engaged. I identified with a mostly made-up social pressure that demanded evidence of my advancement in asana, which kept at least one foot in the studio struggling to keep up with my peers.
Yoga destabilized me. It knocked me down over and over, bruising my ego and embarrassing me into action. Fuck I hate yoga–but I know it has saved my life.
I haven’t done a full yoga practice in months.
My mat has been undisturbed in the closet since sometime in the summer. The vacuum cleaner beside it has gotten more use, and I feel great.
When I get down on the floor for a downward dog randomly during the day, I experience a delicious stretch that reaches into my fascia and travels deep beyond a single muscle. It’s a sensation I have not experienced in forever. If I am inspired to complete a sun salutation, the breath is more fulfilling than I recall it ever being, but I’m not compelled to do more than two. My joints feel strong and the sensation is reflected in my mental and emotional state.
The exhaustion of having to continuously dust off the assault of my yoga practice has forced me to get stronger. Or is it softer? I suppose it’s something in between the two. I no longer bruise as easily and my boundaries are more defined but also not as sharp as they once were. I feel stable for the first time in decades.
I don’t think this is the end of yoga for me, but I don’t know. Walking has been amazing. I am appreciating the view of the nature around me over the obsessive focus of the climate within. The steadiness of my step sprouted from my yoga practice and I’m going to continue walking while the roots lay beneath the earth unseen for a while.