This is the only ‘cool’ yoga pose I can do

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I’ve been practicing yoga regularly (3x and more a week) for six months, but this is the only cool yoga pose I can do*.

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I am grateful for that.

I’ve tried yoga a million times. I’ve managed to go regularly for a couple of weeks at a time. Each time I went to yoga, I was going because it was exercise. Because me and my body were at war with each other, and I was ready to fight it into submission. I went to yoga when I was thin, determined not only to control what I was eating, but also how I was moving.

I went to yoga when I gained weight, determined to shrink myself back into a size I could comfortably present to the world. (I gained more weight.) I liked the idea of having stamina other people didn’t have, of twisting my body into shapes that took other people’s breath away. They also took my breath away, because I had no idea how to breathe.

Unlike the other times I tried yoga, six months ago I joined a studio because I was desperate for a solution to my anxiety.

(I still have anxiety.)

The first few classes were so physically challenging that I left them feeling zen-like, completely physically spent, all of my excess energy gone. That was blissful and wonderful.

After a few classes, my body was already ready for the challenge. I stopped huffing and puffing and started slowing down my breath. I was finally learning how to breathe. Instead of the challenge being getting into a pose, the challenge became staying there and not freaking myself out. The challenge became being there, in my body, with all of the physical sensations that came with it.

(Kind of like anxiety.)

That, if I’m honest, is way less blissful. But it’s the best thing that yoga has given me. To be uncomfortable, to be in discomfort, and to feel it anyway — rather than to immediately try to shut it down. To know that discomfort is not the same as pain. To know that I am capable of feeling all kinds of things and still be OK.

It’s also why I don’t know — and haven’t really attempted — many cool poses.

Because the focus is on me, in me, on how I’m feeling rather than how I look. I’m still learning in the basic poses. I’m still learning something every time I go through a chatturanga, even as they become (slightly) more reliable.

I’m finally reaching a point where trying more intermediate poses sounds like a fun way to explore my own edge rather than something I’m determined to master for external approval. Cue many incomplete attempts at inversions. Kind of like my attempt at grasshopper:

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(Here’s what it actually looks like.)

But I also wanted to put a little blip out into the world, in case you’re a yogi and wondering if you’re alone in not practicing handstands. The basic, fundamental poses are beautiful. They are teaching me so much. Even if they aren’t as exciting on Instagram.

*For like 2 seconds. Nobody’s saying it’s perfect.

Joy and movement

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Today I did a cartwheel.

A bad one, sure. I don’t think I’ve done a cartwheel since I was in grade school. They used to be my favorite, and at least in my head, I thought I was pretty good at them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about joy and how to access it. I don’t feel like joy is a thing I feel, but I have some memory of it. Having a good time and being so caught up in the moment that I’m not thinking about the moment. I am spontaneous and unfiltered. I’m not thinking, “This is good, how do I keep this going?” I’m not thinking, “This is good, don’t mess it up.”

Sometimes I feel this electricity in my body vibrating with all of the things I could do. I could travel. I could hike. I could run. I could do yoga. I could reach out and hug someone and jump up and down. I could dance. I could do a cartwheel. I could do a handstand. I think and think and think. I could I could I could. But what if someone’s watching? What if I fail? What if someone thinks I’m weird? What if it’s inappropriate? What if it’s too much?

I’ve been thinking about cartwheels and handstands and joy. I want to do be able to do a handstand. I want to be able to do a cartwheel. I want to find more reasons to do them. I want to stop feeding the idea that the electricity of joy is too loud, too attention-seeking, too much. Joy is vulnerable. I have to get past that. It’s the only way to get my feet up in the air.