Ever have one of those days? You are brimming with newly found motivation and re-aligned resolution. You haven’t even walked out of the door, yet, and the thought of what you are going to accomplish has you filled with button-bursting pride. You are puffed up with purpose. You are ready to course correct. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
By sheer force of will and determination coupled with the fact that you have crossed that ultimate threshold: your clothes have shrunk, you get up and go to the gym.
Remember the gym? It’s that place you pay monthly. You have a little tag on your key chain that you generously flash to every supermarket checker you meet when you buy slumber-party snacks and the like.
But, hey, that little key tag is akin to my very own red badge of courage; it is proof-positive that I pay money to have a place to exercise and burn calories. Really, flashing that sucker is almost as good as doing a few dozen crunches. I look at my gym key tag as a kind of EZ Pass to the road of junk-food highs.
However, as we all know all too well, and have yet to fully encode in our memory banks, what goes up must come down. And there I am, rolling around in considerable pain. And it is that pain that gets me to the gym. It takes the pain of my clothes being tight, my body having more jiggle than wiggle, and my stiff and groaning self to reach that oh-my-God-I-have-to-do-something tipping point.
So, there I am, flashing my key tag to the actual front desk receptionist at the gym. I expect trumpets at the very least, I am here; I have showed up for a yoga class. Instead, I get a weak, bored smile and a second glance at my frayed key tag.
By my calculations, given what I have paid in membership fees over the year and the number of times I have actually showed up, this class costs me somewhere in the neighborhood of $145.
I deliberately choose yoga. I want to start slowly and carefully; yoga should do the trick. I will be on a mat on the floor. How hard can this be? It’s about stretching and breathing; I can stretch, I can breathe. This should be doable.
I arrive to the class 10 minutes early. The instructor is there; she is stretching and breathing. I am feeling a kinship already.
There is some kind of calming meditation-type music playing with the word “ohm” being repeated. The class assembles in silence; everyone is stretching and breathing and being oh so quiet. So far, so good.
I am feeling hopeful and confident, after all this isn’t my very first yoga class, where I dissolved in a puddle of giggles; nor my second class where I repeatedly crashed into the wall; nor my third class where I exited nauseous and limping. I am coming into this room with some prior experience.
The class is filled to capacity with bright-eyed, Gumby-like students in form-fitting togs. They are awe-struck and reverential to the instructor, a lean, sleek and uber-serious young woman. The room bows before the altar of her yogic wisdom as she leads us in pose after pose. The teacher’s style is stern. One could well imagine this woman striding about in riding boots complete with crop in hand, rhythmically tapping her palm.
We are on our mats. I am happy; I am close to the floor. We are led through a series of body-pretzeling, animal-named poses. The teacher says we are going to pick up the pace for the aerobic portion of the program. Oh boy. We stretch; we breathe; we hold. The sweat is popping on my brow.
“Kneel on the left knee,” the teacher says. “Owie,” I say to myself. My left knee cap has recently come to a point. I precariously kneel. We, then, move through a series of twists, turns and holds. Up and downward facing dog, swan, cobra, cat, the whole gang as we move through the motions that are to stretch the body, clear the mind and create oneness with Spirit.
I am to use my right elbow for some kind of leverage. I find my legs entangled and coiled; my arms spiral out like snakes in search of a hiding place. I can’t tell left from right anymore. I am confused and overwhelmed; all cognitive systems have shut down. Within in a matter of moments, I have become a human knot, a virtual corkscrew of sweat pants and tee shirt.
And, then, it happens. I am falling through space. Like in the movies, it unfolds in slow motion and ends with a leaden “kaboom” as I thud on the wooden, studio floor — with a wall of mirrors, I might add.
I have fallen off my mat. Clearly, I haven’t fallen far, more like wide as I missed the mark of the mat.
But who does that? Who falls off a yoga mat? This was no flying carpet; this was your standard rubberized black mat. Well, me.
And it is pretty funny, don’t you think? Curiously, no one in the class lost a beat, missed a pose or even noticed.
There I was, all proud and pretty to do my gym thing after a few months of EZ Pass eating, and I fall off the mark.
In Aramaic, the word, “sin” is translated as to “miss the mark.” I think missing my mat is synonymous with missing the mark. I have sinned, via that definition, by disconnecting from myself. I hadn’t slowed down enough to listen and learn, instead I tasted something yummy. I had forgotten to fill the hole with the holy. Not a bad lesson to learn, even in a room filled with mirrors.
Adele Ryan McDowell, Ph.D., is a psychologist and teacher who likes looking at life with the big viewfinder. She is the author of Balancing Act: Reflections, Meditations, and Coping Strategies for Today's Fast-Paced Whirl and a contributing author to the best-selling 2012:Creating Your Own Shift. You can learn more about Adele and her thinking at http://theheraldedpenguin.com and www.channeledgrace.com.