Om My Darling, Om My Darling…

Okay at this point you must be wondering, “So, did Stookie do it? Did she complete the 30 days of yoga, or what?” Let me put you out of your misery: No, I did not.

I know, it’s disappointing, but what can I say? I was chataranga-ing along with it pretty well, actually. For the first two weeks, I didn’t miss a day and I was feeling stronger and more connected to my body. One of the most satisfying changes I noted was that, in and out of yoga class, I was more specific in all my physical movements, bringing a certain, dare I say, elegance to my actions (meaning fewer coffee and food spills).

During the third week of the yoga challenge, I was vacationing in Prince Edward Island. Even there, without a gym or internet connection, I still managed a daily yoga practice up until the last three days of my trip, when I was too relaxed even for yoga. Sadly, when I returned home, between searching for a place to live (I currently reside temporarily in my brother’s basement – pathetic at my age), and preparing for a canoe trip the following weekend, and then going on said canoe trip, I completely fell of the yoga wagon….well not completely, I suppose. I managed to go twice during the last week of the challenge.

Despite not completing the yoga challenge, I still had some very valuable insights and learned a lot about myself:

(1) I have a great capacity to withhold – see previous blog re yoga and farting.

(2) I do not like to be vulnerable – not even a little bit. While others in the class happily walk their legs up the wall and stand on their heads or flip themselves backwards into “The Wheel” with their heads dangling precariously mid-air and upside down between their arms, I choose “Child’s Pose” (it’s like the fetal position only you are on your stomach, curled up into the earth).

(3) I have commitment issues – That is not to say I don’t commit. I love to commit! I commit all the time. There is nothing I want more than to be that person with a hungry man’s platter full of commitments. It’s more that I commit poorly. Often it’s that I commit to activities and people with a low return rate. Like when I started up a small business with a friend sewing bags, when I don’t like sewing. There is no satisfaction with this kind of commitment, and success is highly unlikely. But, did I see that? No. See, that is committing poorly. Or, like the weirdly high number of times in my life, that I have dated a man who takes a trip away somewhere, and is then never heard from again (Twice in this past year alone!). Once is just sad and odd, but twice and it is definitely an issue of committing poorly. Alternatively, I might commit to something I love and that has a great return rate, like a 30-day yoga challenge, but at the wrong time. That was definitely the case here. Committing to a 30-day yoga challenge when you are essentially homeless, and out of the province for, like, half of the time is also committing poorly.

Undoubtedly, part of what makes interesting people so appealing is the level of commitment they bring to whatever it is they do as well as their ability to take risks, and their openness (even to farts). Take for example, Amelia Earhart, a woman famously interesting, for flying a plane.

Amelia Earhart came from a family that struggled with finances, alcoholism and eventually family breakdown, but despite this, or perhaps because of it, she had a drive toward adventure and independence that was exceptional among women of her era. She found her outlet in flying planes and she became the 16th woman in the world awarded with a pilot’s licence. While this is no small accomplishment at a time when flight was still quite dangerous, she was certainly not the only woman flying planes at that time, so something else transformed this female pilot into an icon and household name.

Whatever it was that would later make Amelia Earhart extraordinary and notable must have been cast very early in her life, if not right from her birth. One of her childhood friends said this about Amelia: ” We always waited for her to decide what we were going to do….All I knew was that Amelia was more fun to play with than anyone else – I admired her ability, stood in awe of her information and intelligence, adored her imagination, and loved her for herself – and it held true always.” (East of Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart by Susan Butler)

Her unwavering, fearless commitment to push the boundaries of flight would lead her to break many distance and altitude records and to eventually becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in 1928. Earhart’s life ended tragically and mysteriously when, in 1937, she, Fred Noonan her co-pilot, and her plane all disappeared during an attempt at being the first to circumnavigate the globe along the equator. Still to this day though, she and the life she led continue to fascinate and excite us.

Earhart and "old Bessie" Vega 5b c. ...

Earhart and “old Bessie” Vega 5b c. 1935 (original source: http://e-archives.lib.purdue.edu) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Certainly, a half-completed 30-day yoga challenge really doesn’t hold a candle, does it? As my cousin pointed out, there isn’t anything particularly interesting about doing yoga for thirty days (ouch!). I would need to up the commitment level quite significantly in order for it to really be remarkable. Like, I could train as a yoga instructor, and then decide to take my yoga on a road trip around the world, on the back of Ewan MacGregor‘s motorcycle (why not), with the mission to bring yoga to the politicians of every country we visit and thereby bring a calming “om” to international relationships throughout the world. That would definitely be interesting. Alternatively, perhaps I could combine my love of yoga and my love of the ukulele in one, and travel the world singing yoga inspired songs. A lot would need to happen before either of these two plans could be hatched though, and I do have commitment issues.

So perhaps the yoga challenge was a bit of a failure, or as a colleague of mine pointed out, “only a half failure”. Still, I got a lot out of it personally (a deep love of yoga that I will continue to nurture on an un-daily basis), and I developed a keener sense of what makes people interesting.

Another co-worker gave me some particularly curious feedback. He said that not completing the yoga challenge made me “more human”. This is something you hear a lot, and beyond puzzling over what he must have thought of me before the challenge, it also made me wonder: Does this mean that somehow failure to achieve our goals is more human than succeeding at them? Are those interesting people who succeed at what they do less human? Are they unhuman? And what does it even mean to be human? And how do those like Amelia Earhart, who are interesting, at least in part because of their failures, fit into that equation? Is she interesting because what she did made her more human? What is it we are striving for anyway?  This is something for all of us to ponder and discuss.

Finally, Amelia Earhart once said, “Never do things others can do and will do, if there are things others cannot do or will not do.” With those words as inspiration, I take on my next exercise in becoming a more interesting/better woman and human being (whatever that means):

Hmm… Looking at the list of readers’ suggestions, the only one that would fit with Amelia Earhart’s advice would be “to place a personal ad in the style of a 19th century personal ad and see what happens!” This is unfortunate, but what the hell, it is not as if placing ads in 21st century speak is working for me. I will see what happens, and let you know. First, though, I will need to research and see what 19th century personal ad would have looked like: Next stop, the Metro Reference Library!

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Yoga’s Gifts

I am now a little over a quarter of the way through my daily yoga challenge, and so far so good!  I am pleased with my progress so far, in that I haven’t yet succumbed to a horrible injury or a bout of bronchitis as would normally be the case when I take something like this on.  Of course, contemplation and reflection are an important part of any yoga practice. As yet, my thoughts and insights aren’t as transformative as I might like, but perhaps that will come at week three or four.  For example, by day four, exhausted and in not a small amount of physical pain, I wondered if napping could be considered a form of yoga.  So much of yoga is about being restive, and allowing your body a chance to settle and recover.  I attended one restorative class last week that was essentially guided napping.  First we lay on one side of our bodies for a little while and then we very gently rolled over and lay on our other sides.  Admittedly, it was one of my favourite yoga classes. Walking home from that class I felt a kind of calm and an attunement to my surroundings that I rarely experience, and I thought, perhaps I should nap more. Maybe with some lovely yoga inspired music and candles, a nap might be able to provide me the same benefit at considerably less cost. For now, though, I plan to continue with the classes.

But, it hasn’t all been stillness and calm.  Yesterday, I was rushing to get to class.  I had stayed at work a little later than I should have, rushed home and quickly scarfed down some leftover pasta and chicken before running out the door to my Ashtanga class.  Perhaps it was the peppers in the pasta, but for much of the class my focus was not on my breathing, but on the building pressure of gasses in my intestinal tract. In such a quiet room, even the smallest of farts can be heard. Of course, it is a natural bodily process and all, and I know I should have been more zen about it, and just let it fly. I could tell though that it was going to be doozy of a fart, and vanity prevailed.  I just didn’t want to be the girl who farted during yoga class. Never before have I found the words, “allow yourself to release and let go” to be so antagonizing. It was like my yoga instructor was egging me on, and it took all my strength and determination to hold that fart in.

I was surprised to learn how common this is. A quick google search under “yoga and farting” garnered 1, 890, 000 hits! Clearly this is something many other people have struggled with too. One yoga instructor gave the following advice on her website, to her readers who might be worried about farting in the class: “Position yourself in a corner, or farther away from other yogis“.  Well, thanks a lot! What happened to acceptance and compassion?

At the end of class, lying in shivasana,  our yoga instructor asked us to consider what we had learned from this day’s yoga practice.  For me, I learned that despite contorting myself into positions that are highly encouraging of release, I have an incredible ability to withhold. Upon reflection, this is true in my life generally too. Not about the farting, but about the withholding. So, I suppose that though it was a horribly uncomfortable and distracting experience, my need to fart, was in the end actually quite instructive. The walk home following this class was pleasant in a distinctly different way from other nights, as the reassuringly silencing cloak of the city’s street life allowed me to enjoy a well-earned and satisfying “experience of release”, all the way home.

For those yoga warriors out there also doing battle on the mat with the yoga fart, here is a video you may find very helpful (and entertaining):

http://youtu.be/vaFRZuBw9JM