“Keep your shoulders pointed forward, downhill” Jonathan kept saying. We were skiing last Sunday, and his patience was starting to wear thin. The ungroomed runs were scaring me so I was taking big wide turns, side to side, rather than short quick turns downhill. I had two choices: keep thinking about end-of-day hot choccolate (and continue to move like molasses) or push outside my comfort zone. Fortunately, Jonathan’s advice was right on–keeping my shoulders facing downhill felt natural, and as a result I started moving faster.
The next day, my body hurt in places I didn’t know existed. I went to a Vinyasa yoga class at a local studio to stretch out my aching muscles. I have a love/hate relationship with this studio; love, because it can be an extremely challenging workout, but hate because it’s always too crowded. The evening class was so packed I was only inches away from the person next to me, barely able to breathe in the steamy air. The instructor began talking about how we were a community coming together, uniting our voices as we chant “OOOOMMMMMMMM.” And while the “OOOMMMMMM” thing will always be strange to me, there was no denying a feeling of unison as 50 people–all young, thin, and urban hip–let their voices vibrate.
But, once the class started, we were on our own. If you’re attended a yoga class before, you’ll understand this better than others who haven’t. The practice is about finding inner strength as you push yourself as much or as little as you want.
“I want you to keep your hips pointed forward, towards the front of the room,” the instructor said. Her advice, like Jonathan’s, was rooted in experience. But then, she continued, “Go at your own pace. There’s no right or wrong way to do yoga. This is your practice. This is your night.” I smirked a little bit. If there wasn’t a wrong way to do yoga, I would have kept the $18 bucks I’d just paid for her class. I wanted her to teach me the right way, to challenge me like Jonathan had. I didn’t want her to feed me the crap the rest of our culture does–the crap that says, “This life is all about you…your feelings, your comfort, your needs.”
When the lights dimmed at the end of class, our little community laid in our backs in silence. In my head, I sang the Doxology, a hymn often sung a cappella by congregations: “Praise God to whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. AAAAAAAAAHHHHMMMMMMMM eeeennnnnnn.”
photo credit here.