Landing : Athabascau University

Starting with sluggishness, looping through yoga and ending with a rant

It's been almost a month now of teaching, and I've mostly gotten used to the new rhythm of my days, but it also means my days are spent walking slowly around a classroom or sitting on my butt reading or writing. And I'm feeling the lack of exercise. Not that I ever was a fitness nut or gym rat, but over the years I've found that I really need a certain amount of movement happening most days or I get sluggish and tired. Oh, and I gain weight.


Unfortunately, that's where I am, now, with very little space to fit in exercise with everything else I have to do these days. But I'm going to try, and I thought I'd start with getting back into the yoga practice that I had going fairly well a few years ago, but stopped and not restarted after various life- and schedule-changes.


But thinking about integrating yoga back into my life has also gotten me thinking about how yoga relates to everything else, too. Because yoga has everything to do with awareness - awareness of your physical state, but also an awareness of your emotional and mental state, too. I think my experience with yoga has allowed me to be a better teacher; for example, I've been able to notice when I'm getting impatient with a student for not catching on to a math concept, even after I've explained it three, four, five times or more. I can simply notice and acknowledge the impatience, but also acknowledge that getting impatient with my student won't help her understand any faster, and that she deserves better than for me to vent my impatience on her when she's honestly trying to grasp the idea. That allows me to take a breath, and explain the concept yet again, in as different terms and approach as I can think of.


I can manage that emotional awareness, at least most of the time, but I'm still struggling with the physical awareness. I get impatient with myself when I'm doing asana practice, and I still have a hard time keeping my awareness on my body and breath for more than about 30 seconds at a time before my mind wanders. I'm also trying to pay more attention to what my body is telling me about hunger and thirst, so that I'm not on a "diet" but rather practicing mindfulness and eating only when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm not, instead of eating because it's there, or because I'm bored.


In his excellent book on yogic philosophy called The Wisdom of Yoga Stephen Cope talks about how often it happens that someone comes to his yoga classes, and the person seems to have absolutely no awareness of anything below the neck. And it's no surprise, really. In Western society we're taught to live in our heads, and that our bodies are really just for transporting our heads around.


Which brings us to the food issue. We get such mixed messages; we get unhealthy, processed food pushed at us constantly, but we're also told to not eat to stay thin, or eat in a strict, disciplined and scientifically balanced diet. We're taught a dysfunctional, love/hate relationship with both food and our bodies.


It's kind of like taking a child, and as she's growing up, having her see and experience only abusive, dysfunctional and controling relationships. Then, when she's grown up, heaping guilt upon her for not being able to sustain a healthy and balanced relationship with another person. I mean really, is it any wonder? And yet, that's exactly what's happening with the whole diet/weight loss/exercise industry. They're teaching and perpetuating dysfunctional, abusive relationships, and then heaping guilt (along with the entertainment industry) for not suceeding at having a "perfect" body. I mean, WTF? Why are we still all listening to these people?


Ok, I'll stop ranting now.


But my point is, we're taught to pay attention to the teacher. We're taught to pay attention to how others percieve us (aka self-consciousness). We're taught to pay attention to duties and responsibilities and jobs. We're not taught to pay attention to our own internal processes.


Why not? That's what I'd like to know.


  • Your mini-rant put me in mind of an article I saw a few years ago:


    I admire you for doing yoga at all though. Most days, it's all I can do to climb the stairs to my bed-sweet-bed after work!!

    sarah beth January 28, 2011 - 6:09am

  • Thanks for the wonderful yoga perspective. I try to have a daily practice myself but find I am better with class structure. I do appreciate what you mean about clearing our minds and focusing on breathing. I like the mantra "I breathe in therefore I am, I breathe out therefore you are" but can only focus on that for a short while.


    Caroline Park January 28, 2011 - 10:46am

  • Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for the link - the author was making much the same point that I was, though more articulate and less rant-like Smile.  Modern women seem to be better than our mothers and grandmothers at not buying into the patriarchal crap regarding what we can and can't do in terms of education and careers and so on, but why, oh why are we still buying into the patriarchal crap about what a woman is supposed to look like?

    I guess the only answer is that change takes time. Baby steps. But I still plan to rant from time to time...

    Heather von Stackelberg January 29, 2011 - 6:26pm

  • Hi Caroline,

    I'm glad you liked the post. I've actually never been to a yoga class, I'm an entirely self-taught yogi...weird, I know, but time, money and opportunity have never come together at the same time for me to get to a class. I'm hoping that will change eventually. I like that mantra too. I've had varying success with using mantras for focus; sometimes they work really well, sometimes they just annoy me.

    I wish you success at your practice, too.

    Heather von Stackelberg January 29, 2011 - 6:30pm

  • I like your ranty version. :) More fire in your belly.

    I'd add - a rant of my own, I guess - that women, despite being granted little room for self-awareness and reflection, are subject to pretty intense scrutiny from everywhere else: what women eat, don't eat, wear, don't wear, say, do, express, repress, feel etc is constantly examined and debated as reasons for our various "failures" to live up to whatever we're supposed to look like, be like, be to other people. Talk about exhausting!  

    sarah beth January 29, 2011 - 7:32pm

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