What Keeps Me Calm: Finally Giving Yoga A Real Shot—Then Falling For It, Hard
Alright, I'll say it. Namaste.
Welcome to What Keeps Me Calm, a series of movies, television shows, albums, books, and other works of media that are comforting us during these incredibly stressful times. On particularly sad and disheartening days, there’s nothing better and more consoling than to turn to our favorite things to read, watch, and listen, as these offer a respite from the hardships we face collectively and individually.
I feel a lot of feelings, and I feel them deeply.
This is most true when I'm upset. I sulk a lot (sometimes for longer than necessary just because I don't want to give people who tell me to calm down at the peak of my sulkiness the satisfaction that I have, indeed, calmed down), I compose strongly worded sentences in my encrypted chats, and I huff and puff my way through the day to "release" said feelings.
A lot of the time, I tell myself it's the Leo in me to blame for all the temper flare ups and prideful moping about, but even astrology will tell you that your sun sign is no antagonistic Jiminy Cricket. There is no evil Aslan in my inner ear whispering like a deranged cult leader, telling me to keep the anger up until I've burnt myself to a crisp from the inside out.
The truth is, I've always known that that's always been all me. It's just easier to make up excuses when you know how deeply steeped you are in unhealthy emotional and behavioral patterns that need to change.
But hey—the year is 2020, and 2020 is the year of change.
However change does not come easy, my god, it does not.
But there I was, little sapling of change cradled in my palms, and the intention to grow it into a strong, sturdy fruit-bearing tree had been cast out into the universe. But I would take care of that a later time.
But then again, the universe is always listening, whether you like it or not.
I hadn't realized it was listening so intently—like cryptographer cracking codes for the Allies in '45—that the events that followed my intention-setting were enough to fast forward the process of knocking down old emotional habits to make way for something better.
It hadn't even been a full two weeks since I'd visualized my spiritual sapling when news of two deaths made their way to me. Those are stories for another time, but all you need to know is that they were enough to turn the fire in me into ice and I found myself feeling so much and nothing at all, like I was on endless cycle of thawing and freezing.
At the height of it all (read: I'd reached a point where I needed to take days off work to reconfigure myself), I figured scr*w it. I picked up a yoga mat and plopped myself on the floor still wearing the clothes I'd slept in, still feeling so much and nothing at all.
Note that I'd never done yoga in my life. (Down dog what?). I'd never read about it and I'd never even worn yoga pants despite their magical butt-lifting properties.
I spotted a YouTube video for a "flow" whose thumbnail was non-threatening enough to this yoga noob, and boy oh boy was in for a ride.
Four minutes in, I had more hot tears on my dusty yoga mat than I did sweat.
Fifteen minutes in and I was breathing deeply (or maybe it was light heaving from the crying, I couldn't tell), and come the 25-minute mark, the end of the video, I was stunned.
No. I was humbled.
Was I really holding onto that much, that tightly?
I tried again the next day with a different flow (I'd researched what a "yoga flow" was before bedtime) and I made sure to come prepared. I even wore a stretchy headband and used my good hair tie to keep my hair out of the way. (I still don't own yoga pants though.)
I still couldn't do 3/4 of the poses and postures on my second try, but I liked how my alone time with yoga wasn't spent dwelling on what went wrong, but rather, it allowed me to still face the upset-ness head on, albeit with a ton more kindness towards myself and a clearer understanding of the situation.
After a week of daily morning yoga for at least half an hour, I learned that prolonging anger is the emotional counterpart of driving at max speed on a rainy evening in an under-lit highway with your windshield covered in squashed bugs, bird poo, and all other kinds of debris. It's dangerous, neglectful, and also pretty gross.
I eventually graduated from YouTube yoga to yoga and meditation apps for my budding practice. After seeking the advice of yoga-doing friends and getting over the slight shyness and/or hiya for wanting to get into it, given that I was that person. I was the short fuse now wanting to cultivate mindfulness and calmness.
To anyone who might be wondering, I'm a big fan of Down Dog, and I've happily been using it for a month! It's free for new users for 30 days, and I've actually just paid for a yearly subscription that cost me a little over P2,000. Price-wise, it's definitely worth it if you ask me (because a subscription gives you unlimited access to all of Down Dog's partner fitness apps, and there are many), but personal development-wise, that's where it really hits the sweet spot.
A typical routine for me is 40 minutes of yoga (the app lets you choose what kind of yoga you'd like to do for the day, what skill/body part/muscle groups to focus on, and the duration of your workout) and if I'm feeling up to it, a round of meditation.
Explore the endless options. If Down Dog isn't your cup of tea, surely, you'll find one that suits your taste. (There are online classes led by real human beings, too, if you prefer those over learning yoga via technology).
I used to think that wellness habits like this were as cheesy and trendy-and-nothing-more as you could get. Pre-yoga me would have said something along the lines of "Yoga is for people who can afford to do nothing for most of the day and take IG pics of them in yoga outfits." I hadn't realized that "doing nothing" in the context of yoga actually meant making space in your mind and heart for what has yet to come in the day.
If you start the practice a pure and genuine intention to learn and improve yourself, they will pay you back a hundredfold with positive change after positive change in your mindset, mood, and perspective.
And if you ask me, that's just as, or even way more important than keeping your physical self safe as we brace for more months of pandemic living to come.
You don't even have to be dealing with anger issues, anxiety, fear, or other chronic stress-related issues to reap the benefits of yoga. You don't even have to have any emotional baggage, at all. But if you do, I'm here to let you know that it's a safe way to loosen your grip on the things that should be let go of.
After all, the pandemic is not only a test of physical wellness, but of spiritual, emotional, and mental balance, too. There are no cute infographics that show you how to wash your mind and soul with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and voila, you've scrubbed away all the negativity and you're now officially safe from becoming unwell.
That's up to you discover to learn how to do.
And I'm telling you that for me, at least, yoga and other mindfulness practices were where I found my how-to-do's.
I still get pissed off.
I still get super annoyed when my Wi-Fi fluctuates, when I read about irresponsible politicians, or when things don't go my way.
In the long-run, I know I'll be more than okay because of my shiny new mindfulness and calmness habits that I am developing to last a lifetime, and that makes me feel even more okay.
It's a cycle worth getting caught up in.
I told you. 2020 is the year of change, and I am liking these changes a lot, so far.
Oh, and I can do more than just hold down dog now, too.
Images from Pexels