8 years old:
Sitting in my grandmother’s living room on the beige carpet …
A news blip on the TV in which a woman celebrates her 100th birthday. She folds like a pretzel, putting her feet behind her head with a big grin on her face. She’s been practicing yoga for 60 years and here she is, as vibrant and as flexible as I was with my as yet un-fused sacrum. Maybe she’s on to something.
13 years old:
My friend’s yoga teacher mother invites our whole soccer team to a series of 3 classes. We learn about ‘monkey mind’, about ‘corpse pose’ and that if we do inversions before exams we’ll think more clearly. We giggle and show off our youthful flexibility and levity, floating into headstands and flinging into handstands. We get tucked in for savasana, with tiny sandbags over our eyes. It is so comforting.
19 years old:
How am I already not as flexible as I used to be? In my first class since that fleeting introduction, a yoga teacher frowns at my downdog and pulls my hips back, trying to force my convex back into a more acceptable shape. My hamstrings scream.
23 years old:
I’ve been hitchhiking and camping all over western Canada, sleeping on uneven surfaces and living rough. I’ve also been sitting in stiff plastic chairs through interminable university classes and paper-writing sessions with slumpy posture. As a result I’ve been saddled with chronic back pain. It even hurts to lie flat on my back sometimes. Something’s pinching. I get an x-ray and a CT scan. I see a physiotherapist to correct the bulging disc in my lumbar. We set a goal together. I would like to practice yoga. I don’t know where this comes from but I know it’s what I need. I do the exercises until my muscles strengthen and my back pain lessens. I sign up for Iyengar-style classes with the same friend’s yoga teacher mother from the junior high days. I diligently attend a class a week over the next two winters. I feel taller, stronger and lighter. I stand in tadasana while waiting for the bus.
29 years old:I have a dedicated yoga spot in my apartment. I feel it when I miss my practice. I work in male-dominated, physically demanding jobs and apply yogic forms while hauling gear. My 5’3” 130lb body can somehow keep up with their 6’3” 230lb ones. I love the dynamic strength that yoga allows me to build. I love the feeling of euphoria and clarity after a transformative practice. I love picking apart the anatomy and mechanics of a pose. I love delving into the yogic philosophy of the human mind and body; it keeps me grounded, it sends me higher, it brings peace.