Yoga: Why Fucking Bother.

Well. So glad you asked.

I had a funny little encounter tonight. There’s a rather cool bar parked right next door to the Bikram yoga studio I frequent in Darlinghurst. There’s a bouncer outside and from the lane way, it doesn’t look like much– that’s the point, right– And come nightfall this rather sexy bouncer guards the door. mans the fort, is pretty tall– I often merge from an evening Bikram class in all my sweaty, stinky foul glory and make some quick quip to him about letting me in, he usually laughs. This evening, all that happened, when a few of my friends spilled out and seemed startled to find me walking by looking like I’d just stepped out of one hell of a hot shower.

“Wow. Alex. So this is it? This is the studio. This is what it does, hey?”

It’s worth a mention that with a strong commitment to Bikram yoga comes also a strong commitment to looking like shit a lot of the time. If you’re face ain’t bright red, you’re hair’s usually wet, and if you skin ain’t clammy it doesn’t really matter because you’re bathroom is going to look a lot like a Chinese laundry and your lycra dries and sometimes– if you’re not careful– your flat can end up smelling a lot like basmati rice…

But whatever.

It’s worth it.

There was laughter and banter amongst my friend and I until the mood turned almost somber as I was bombarded with questions about yoga.

Now, to be fair, this is one of my favorite conversations to have… with the exception of being in the company of really intoxicated cynics who all really want to rip Bikram yoga to shreds. That tends to piss me off. Worse even, it’s boring.

So this was all most timely this evening as I had just spent the entire 90 minutes of the class constructing some sort of blog in my head. I often do this. The true beauty of Bikram yoga however, is that it doesn’t really matter what you go in to the class thinking about it– inevitably– you’re going to end up leaving it all behind. That’s it’s grace. The thinking stops. The mind quiets. And the healing stuff begins. The really good stuff. It all starts to happen when you stop thinking about it. About anything. You have to stop to start. You have to.

One of my friends in the lane way remarked that he’d been meaning to come join me for ages– That he’d just not found the time. That he needed to go for a few jogs first.

I said, “Why!?”

He seemed bothered by his level of fitness.

“I mean, how bendy to you really have to be? I’m not very fit. Do you ever pick up? All those sweaty near naked bodies all crammed in together?”

“Mate…”

I looked at him long and hard, sipping my Staminade and looking up at the sky. There is no feeling that matches this. There really isn’t. And I’ve felt a few…

Nothing compares.

I respond slowly, because that’s what it does. It makes you take your time. It makes you wonder how anyone could really ever worry about anything. For long.

I inform my friends of the current 30 Day Yoga Challenge– and how I have a number of doubles now to make up by the end of the month due to a hectic new work schedule. I suggested I could use the support. That now was a great time to come and check it out. That the energy was high. The classes full. People of all levels doing their very best. Everyday. For an entire month. A good place to start, I said.

They asked me what I wear in class because this is the sort of thing one asks in a lane way outside American Apparel.

“What do you wear?”

“My underwear,” I replied. “I wear my bra and I wear hot pants.”

“Right. Are you kidding!? I’d have to wear my underwear?”

“Nar man, the guy next to me tonight wore a jumper. He’s nuts! Do what you like.”

There are surprisingly few rules I thought, as the conversation continued. Once you really get in to the practice there really isn’t a whole lot to be worried about. I mean you can be, if you like, but you don’t have to be.

I had a shocker of a week last week. I promised to write about it and then didn’t.

My body was playing up. A lot.

My hormones were making me all teary and curse. I couldn’t bare looking at myself in the mirror in front of me, behind me, beside me for a moment, let alone 90 fucking minutes. I couldn’t bare much of it at all. And I’ve been doing this a while, yeah? A long while now– Three years all up, seriously…

I couldn’t get on top of my breathing. I couldn’t escape the heat. My mind was racing at a thousand miles a minute and I really, really began to entertain thoughts of leaving, and of suicide. Because this is hard. Let’s face it. A lot of shit is really, really hard.

By the time I’d sat out of some two or three poses the instructor approached me and whispered, “Are you ok?”

I wasn’t.

I was a wreck.

A big, pink one–

My appendages were so swollen and tender I could barely grib anything without feeling overwhelmed by hatred for my human form.

My body was clammy but not uber, uber sweaty which one comes to embrace and really relish after a time in the Torture Chamber. Plus it helps. It’s easier to be agile when you’re so slippery wet. Limbs slide and wrap. Your spine smiles as you bend it backward. Your womb loves being stretched so open wide. How often does that happen? Really? Like THAT? Goodness… Your hips are higher than your head. Your heart chakra doesn’t have a say in the matter. It’s open. It’s on. And it does as it pleases. You can’t guide it. Your heart. You just have to keep opening it up.

And sometimes, often really, this makes people feel really uncomfortable.

I had a delightful class this evening with the studios director, Darren Ma. He relayed to a room full of some 84 sweaty, extended, over-heated yogis his experiences with yoga and emotion.

He made light of the fact that after he started to practice regularly he began brining a second towel with him to class, to bury his head in, just in case… You know… the tears came.

He spoke of this niggly recurring knee injury he’d had for years and how during a yoga class one evening it occured to him that his dad was stuck in his knee.

Admitting defeat, he found that as he pushed himself a little bit further in to the posture– it wasn’t pain that overwhelmed him– it was grief.

And so he pulled back.

He didn’t like the feeling.

But then curiosity got the cat, right? Cause that’s what yogas all about– What’s hiding in there? What is that? Come on… Up you pop…

So he pushed himself a little further. Just a little. Just enough. And then he cried.

Hence the second towel.

Once you’ve practiced for a while you come to learn that we suppress ourselves in all manner of ways. If something is uncomfortable or confronting or terrifying we suppress it– With water, with speech, with distractions, with food, with thoughts– We run away, all day every day, really…

And then throw our hands up in the air when shit breaks, or falls apart. Like the shit actually disappears when you close your eyes, and choose to avoid it– We’re like little kids in that way. You know how they do that? They cover their eyes and just because they can’t see, you can’t see. You see? It’s adorable. But it’s hardly liberating. Nor is it very yogic.

Darren continued with his story by adding that as he completed the class that day it came to him to write his father a long letter.

Now Darren’s rarely this intimate in class and I found myself drawn to him in a brand new way this evening as he opened up wide about why blokes don’t fucking bother with yoga.

“I’m a man,” he announced. “I’m not interested in crying!”

I chuckled to myself because he is… He’s an world champion dragon boat racer yogi studio owner guy that never really seems to have much spare time… You know? He’s not interested in breaking down. Clearly.

He then went on to relay how he’d called his father and read the letter to him over the phone. How he’d come to the conclusion that when his parents divorced at five he’d just teamed up with his mum and had grown to despise the man because she did. How at the ripe old of 35 in a fucking yoga class it ocurred to him that his dad was stuck in his knee. That he didn’t despise him at all. And that he was sorry.

All 84 of us laughed as we busted our balls in Sasangasana, he telling us of how dismissive his old man had been. “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” And how irrespective of his old mans response the niggly knee sodded off– just like that… It vanished.

Admitting he still felt he had an ex-girlfriend in the other knee he was still struggling to get rid of– I was overcome with a remarkable sense of feeling like I really have unearthed the holy grail here– I really have.

Meeting Bikram’s wife, Rajasheree Choudhery last weekend, as I wrote, was a real honor. A treat. A special thing. And one of the things she mentioned that has really stuck with me was her belief that all physical ailments/conditions/predispositions/proclivities/addictions are entirely psychosamatic.

Now I don’t want to venture too far down the rabbit hole here– It’s late and I’ve got to get up early tomorrow, do “a double,” finalise my own tax return, submit a publisher proposal package, paint my toe nails and get some shut eye. But let me say this.

There is nothing, surely, more annoying than having your body or your mind fail you in some grandiose, ugly fashion– than– having people standing by so generously insisting that this thing– this thing of yours– is entirely in your head.

Something remarkable about yoga– in my opinion– is the language of it. The literature. The metaphors. The symbolism. I love it. As much as I love what Rajesheree meant when she said “psychosomatic.”

It’s not “all in your head.”

That’s not what she meant.

It’s more like– Where the mind goes, the body follows.

It’s more of an opportunity to diagnose yourself.

To be able to tell. Right away. What’s up.

And to face it.

Even when you’re bodies failing to do what it should. When you can’t bare the heat. When you hate yourself. Every fucking inch of what you see.

Then.

Then you start bringing a second towel… Cause if that stuffs in there– that stuff needs to come out.

Darren quipped this evening how frequently he runs in to students on Oxford Street. Students mainly, he said, with a belly full of excuses as to why they’ve not been to the studio lately.

“I don’t care!” He joked. “I do not care why any one has not been here lately. I don’t care…”

And just as I dragged my ass through countless classes last week– that gawd awful one in particular– feeling like rubbish, from the inside bones to skin– I sat out yet another posture and took a good, hard, kinda-soft look at myself in the mirror. And admitted defeat. “Alexandra Coffey… Now you listen to me mate… You are enough. Ok?

You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough.

You’re enough. You’re enough.You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough.

You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough.

You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough.

You’re enough…”

“The posture begins when you can’t take it anymore…” – Bikram Choudhery.

“You don’t find yourself invested in this sort of discipline until you’re suffering has grown as great…” – Leonard Cohen.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: