I’m not sure if I would classify this past semester as difficult. However, I feel it has offered me a chance to reflect on specific subject matters and explore my thoughts about them. I find myself thinking about race and sexuality frequently. This is nothing new, but the amount of time I have spent thinking about them this semester has been almost every day. A couple weeks ago I tried to imagine what my life would have been like if I was bisexual. The conclusion that I came to was I would dislike people more. I realize this isn’t the most positive thought. However, I look at it as another thing someone could use to attack me. Why do I feel this way?
Alex posted on her Facebook page that the Vancity Theatre would have a screening of the movie Yogawoman directed by Kate Clere McIntyre and Saraswati Clere. It said she would be a part of the Q&A session following the movie. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it because she had a cold but I’m glad I went to go see the movie. The movie focused on specific women who are involved with yoga and how yoga has helped their lives. The movie covers a wide range of topics, such as: the management of the business of life, pregnancy and birth, sexuality, health, balance in day to day life, the idea that yoga is universal, social expectations and pressure of how to live, and death. It asks how does yoga fit in everyday life? There is one point of the movie when one woman is talking about her class and how she has certain classes designed for women who are going through menstruation. She was talking about how she was at a conference explaining this class on a panel and another woman yelled out, “You say menstruation in class?” And her response was, “It happens. Why should we pretend it doesn’t?” I remember it made me uncomfortable. My reaction after was why does it make me uncomfortable? I mean, nobody bats an eye when guys talk about dicks and balls.
There is another woman who recovered from breast cancer who found yoga because, like me, she started it for vanity purposes. Her intentions changed after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and yoga helped her through it because it forced her confront her own mortality. She felt there should be classes for women dealing with cancer or who are recovering and that is exactly what she started. She explained how in almost all areas of their life the word cancer is avoided but not in her class. She feels that it is a reality they are living; there is no point to run away from it and the only way to deal with it is to confront it. You can’t run from your body. Another women spotlighted was a woman who ran a class for girls in juvenile detention. One of the most striking bits was when she asks the group of girls at the beginning of class if it’s okay for her to touch them during the practice. She said that some of the girls have never had that power before.
Yes, there were some parts where they had specialists and doctors’ talk about the benefits of yoga but I didn’t find those parts interesting. I wanted to hear the personal stories. Yes the movie may have been about how yoga can be used as a great social force to help empower woman but for me at no point in the movie did I feel it was being forced down my throat. It was an avenue for these women to tell their story and none of their stories was, “This is why yoga is great and why you should do it too.” It was here is my life and how yoga fits into it. They all practice yoga for different reasons. It doesn’t matter what that reason is, it’s the right reason for them and that reason can change. I’m not sure if I would call the movie eye opening or mind blowing. However, it does reinforce reasons why I enjoy yoga. The biggest draw still being the sense of universal acceptance in its community. There isn’t a standard or an ideal to live up to. There isn’t a set of rules and restrictions for you to continue practicing. You just need to respect yourself and those around you. One line will always resonate with me, “Yoga cuts through the drama of life.”
Yogawoman is important because it reminds us that everyone has their own story as well as a historical context tied to them. We are oblivious to other’s historical context sometimes because the things their family and culture have gone through never happened to them. Listening to other people’s stories it reinforces the idea that everyone wants the same things out of life. Those things might take different forms and paths but they are the same. Everyone wants to be happy, secure, in good health, and be surrounded by people whom they love and respect and where those feelings are reciprocated. However, everyone has a different definition of happiness, love, and security. I’m sure it’s easy for some people to dismiss the people in Yogawoman as nothing more than radicals who are dumb enough to believe yoga can change the world. It’s important to listen to other people’s stories and their view points. You don’t have to agree with what they believe or say, all you have to do is be open to what they’re saying and listen. That’s how your own view broadens and maybe people will realize that even if they disagree some of their beliefs overlap.
If someone asked me why is it important for me to choose yoga as a project at the beginning of the semester I don’t think I would’ve gave them an answer. Right now I’m not sure I can answer it either. Instead I would reframe the question: what does yoga mean to me? It gives me the opportunity to check in with myself. It’s a space that is inclusive and a practice with no expectation and it forces me to get out of my own way. What I mean by that is, I’m learning to let go of what might happen or how I’ll look attempting a new pose and even accepting my own limits. Sometimes everyone else will be in a more advanced variation of a pose and I’m not at that point yet but it’s okay because some of those people started where I did. Yoga gives me the chance to recalibrate my mind, it deepens my breath, tells me stories which resonate, and makes my ass more bootilicious.
I look back at the beginning of this semester and look at where I am now I feel like I have grown. There isn’t anything tangible I can point at and say here this is what I’ve done. This semester hasn’t been perfect. I’ve had good days, I’ve had bad days, and I’ve had days where I’ve done absolutely nothing. It happens. Life happens, it doesn’t stop. No one will ever be able to stop things from happening to them. I know I said earlier I don’t like to believe in luck, coincidence, and say stuff is meant to happen but life’s weird and there is space for those things to exist. It’s how we react to these things which matter.
I have this feeling that things might not work out but it’s alright. There are some things which I have high hopes for and they could be horribly wrong right away but if it doesn’t kill me or completely shatter my being, I’ll be okay. We are resilient and are meant to go through hardship. We learn the most about ourselves when things are terrible. When things are good and you’re comfortable you have no need to change or improve. Yoga is a constant reminder of this because there will still be spaces in my body and breath that I can go deeper in. Yoga doesn’t end when I leave a class. I can take what I’ve discovered dealing with a pose and apply it to a problem I might have in life. And no, the solution for that will not be to breathe and pretend it doesn’t exist. I will stay in the moment and be present. Problems like poses aren’t as bad and world shattering as they initially seem. We have to embrace the uncomfortable feeling and realize it’s not there to destroy who we are but strengthen us. I know yoga will be a part of my life for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure where it could take me but I’m excited to find out.
It’s Like I Have ESPN or Something – Nicole
We all need to find our own yoga. This post reminds us why.
Irving talks about all the ‘stuff’, all the messiness, the silly putty of life, we are part of each day. Some of the things, the people, the social fabrications, the bundles of gender, sexuality, race, that we continually bump in to make us fly; others slow us down, some make us climb over them. For Irving, it is yoga that helps him think the ‘stuff’ of life through; yoga is his crutch, his smoke signal, his ultra waterproof flood waders, his truth, as he learns where and how he fits with the chaos of being human.
We all need a yoga. Our yoga might not be yoga. We might need a bundle of tiny little yogas. Yogas might come and go. But we all need yogas. “Yoga doesn’t end when I leave a class”, it sticks with us. Yogas are loyal. They’re pretty brave; they are definitely creative. They’re chock full of courage, although sometimes they make us hunt for where guts are stored. Yogas challenge us to be better, to be more, to stretch the stuff of what we are towards the stuff of what we might be. Yogas point us in the direction of cookies when we need them, and remind us to eat vegetables too. Yogas can be all our own, or they might belong to a community. Yoga pushes us away then pulls us back together; sometimes it might be exactly what we need, occasionally we are called to take a purposeful step away from it.
But no matter what, we all need our own yogas.
I hope you find yours.