I love that song with a similar name by Twenty One Pilots but this post is only loosely related.
I find myself thinking about and longing for the years when I was in Graduate School at Boston University, living in a rent controlled apartment in Cambridge and working at McLean Hospital in Belmont. At that time, I felt on top of the world. Sure I was “stressed out” as the lyrics to the above song say, but I was on a mission. I was working toward the biggest goal of my life (of that time), and the rewards for my hard work were huge. I had a sense of accomplishment, I was growing in self confidence, My future looked so bright, (another obscure song reference), and maybe best of all…..I RAN.
I was a runner. I was a Bostonian living near the Charles River. Of course I ran. And, like every other 20 something runner, I had the goal of running the Marathon, Boston. In the spaces between classes, writing papers, reading assignments, field placements and my job at the hospital, I trained for Boston.
I loved those early morning runs along that river, down Storrow Drive and over the B.U. bridge. The weather didn’t matter, I was out there, running…finding my rhythm. First finding the steady, even pace, then upping my speed, my heart pumping, endorphins reaching peak, and never feeling my Nikes hit the ground because I was in flight, a perfect state.
My training got me to a relatively easy 14 miles with an average 9 minute mile, but that was where it ended. I just couldn’t make my body go further. I guess I had too many things on my plate at the time that needed to be prioritized. And so, I let that goal go. I have some regrets about it, but other goals became more important, like my career (which I love), and then marriage (well, that’s another story for another day), and children….and I could never, ever regret having my children. They are both rockstars!
I did keep running. For many years I kept up that 14 mile run. And I loved it. I knew it had been a great accomplishment to have trained to be able to run that distance. It was a passion. And so I ran, up into my mid 30’s until the time that my knees ached so much that I couldn’t walk, and was informed by an ortho surgeon that if I didn’t find another way to get my “high” I would need a knee replacement before age 40. And thus, my long distance runs were replaced by aerobic classes, strength training, elliptical machines, zumba, and pilates.
It wasn’t until a year ago that I began to practice Yoga. And this is really the essence of this post. If I could turn back time, I would have been practicing Yoga in my 20’s while living in Cambridge with the other hippies (said with profound admiration and love), I would have walked into one of the many Yoga studios in Central Square where I lived, and found the amazing sense of oneness with my body, mind and soul, that I am only now discovering.
I wish I had the endurance, strength, and flexibility of my 20-year-old body to pursue Yoga to its fullest. The Bakasana (crow pose), Adho Mukha Vrksasana (hand stand), Astavakrasana (eight-angle pose) and Tittibhasana (firefly) are far beyond my physical ability. Even though my mind likes to feel that I am still a young limber 20 something, my much older body has other ideas.
The reality of this makes me so much sadder than having had to give up the goal of running The Boston Marathon. My fledgling Yoga Practice has given me more inner peace and a deep sense of purpose beyond my words, than running, (or any other exercise practise) ever did. And there has never been a time in my life that I wasn’t wholeheartedly engaged in some form of exercise or another. I was pretty much been a gym rat before it was a thing.
My Yoga Practice is one of the best parts of my day. Over the past year I have followed a Yoga teacher on YouTube. She has studied all over the world and is certified in many forms of Yoga. I find myself drawn to her Vinyasa classes. But after a year of YouTube Yoga, I desire more. I want to feel the collective energy of a class. I want to have a teacher see my asanas and correct my body if needed. I want to challenge myself to go deeper, both physically and spiritually into my practice.
But it is no easy task to find the right class. I’ve visited several studios and have left feeling quite discouraged. Are my expectations too high? Am I unfairly comparing my beautiful YouTube Yoga teacher who has the body of a gazelle, the melodic voice of an angel and who holds her classes on exotic beaches, to the Yoga teachers and studios in the real world? Maybe?
But realisitically, is it wrong to want to practise in a clean open space with light? I went to a class on Saturday that was in a very small “studio” with dingy walls, dusty grey/beige carpet, and drawn shades. The teacher didn’t even say hello when I smiled meekly at her. The class was “Gentle Yoga”, which I figured would be a nice, easy flow. It wasnt. There was no flow. It was mostly lying on the mat breathing, listening to a pre-recorded guided imagery, and doing a few restorative poses. I really love and know the value of Balasana (childs pose), Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle pose) and Savasana (corpse pose), but I want those poses to come at the end of my practise. I had hoped for more than this. The website had described the class as “Beginner Yoga for everyone.” If it had said “Restorative Yoga for everyone”, I would not have paid the $25 drop in fee only to leave with my Jade Yoga mat covered with hair, and feeling sadly disapointed.
My other attempt at finding a class was an emmense let down as well. It was held at our local Senior Center. I arrived, excited to join a community of people who I thought were practising Yoga and striving towards being more centered, balanced and perhaps mindful of the wonderful energy that can flow in, through and inbetween the spaces in our lives. I was turned away. The ladies there were angry that the class was still listed as “open” as the room was too crowded to fit even one more mat. I stood there momentarily caught between the teacher and her students while they bickered about the dilemma. I turned and eased my way out the door, unoticed.
I deeply apologize if I am offending any Enlightend Experienced Yogi’s that might read this. That is the farthest from my intent. I do not wish to diminish anyones practice. I can only imagine the dedication and study it takes to become certified in Yoga and the hard work that goes into running a studio, but is it alright that I am seeking the right fit for me?
Am I missing the point? Am I being judgemental? Am I exhibiitng a lack of gratitude? Is the place where Yoga is practiced not important because it is the work on the inner self that counts? I just do not know.
I have another place that I plan to check out this week. I continue to have hope that I will find a class to continue to grow my love for the practise of Yoga. I still have a few good years left in me, and now that I have a little more free time, I would really like to find the best version of myself at this stage of my life. The voice inside me that speaks to my heart tells me that Yoga is the path I am supposed to follow.
And so I will continue my search for a guide, a teacher and a class. In the meantime, it is me, my mat and YouTube Yoga.