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Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Yoga leads to self-enlightenment

Typically, my goal as a columnist is to convince everyone to get over themselves and see things my way. Alas, I am taking the week off; I realize I am powerless over what one’s human nature wills her to do. No matter how many times “they” tell us not to smoke, drink, eat nougat or watch reality TV, we cannot stop ourselves from what our instincts demand any more than we can will ourselves home with a click of the heels. All the same, I feel it my place to say that yoga should be required by law.

It’s cheesy, sure, but I finally get it about the body being a temple. It is, after all, where we live. It houses the roaring tide of self, serving as our very own personal escort, our own private people-mover that takes us through life’s e-ticket rides. Conversely, it is also the old reliable bank of reason that keeps us from frothing out of bounds and crashing to our watery end.

For some of us who do yoga, we cannot understand why we have not been doing this all along. We wonder how the rest of you can tolerate living in a body that does not bend, balance and breathe. In fact, when we watch you in the recreation center, churning yourselves silly on bicycles and such, we wonder why you are working so hard. We wonder if the energy you are burning up might be better spent carrying something for the needy.

I remind myself that we yoga-doers were once stiff ourselves, but as we now know, all roads lead to yoga. Insomuch, we forgive you for what you know not. In fact, we are so content in our salutations to the chakras that we hardly even notice you. You resemble drones, pawns, waiting in the wrong bread line, tithing to the stations of the Cosmo cross. Because we do yoga, however, we have compassion. We hope you get it, but we will let you do it on your own time – hopefully long before you realize you are more than halfway into your life, the one you are busy pushing along on somebody else’s behalf, corporation, good name or position in office.

I suppose I should back up. All of this enlightenment has to start somewhere. I used to laugh at the thought of being “centered”; I was perfectly content in the manic high-rise where I spent most of my life. I figured I wasn’t cut out for stability. On the side, I harbored envy and resentment for those who practiced yoga or even called it that. Despite my skepticism, I dabbled in yoga when it went repeatedly in and out of style, but always ended up in apathetic poses of despair, which left me stiff and slouchy. I told myself that some people are just not meant to bend, but now I realize I used that rationale in order to engage my 20-something right to treat my body like a shanty, not a temple. How unenlightened. How common. I blame the 80s.

When I finally went back for good, I wore swimming trunks and a T-shirt that said “easily distracted.” To make a long story short, I have been locked into some kind of yoga pose ever since. I got so addicted to the teamwork between my mind and body that I found myself incorporating yoga into just about anything I could. Standing in line at Starbucks was suddenly a luxurious few more minutes to slip into the triangle position. I became so adept at integrating stretching into my daily routine that I even found myself creating new poses. “Menorah!” I called out one morning in December, extending my fingers in a frame around my extended head. “Coffee pose!” I’d say, honoring the grinder each morning before offering sun salutation to my deity, caffeine.

Yes, this takes work, investment and patience. It takes yoga. I know we are not Slinkies, and it can feel awkward to flap-jack to our twelfth level as though we are. On the other hand, I also realize it took centuries to unlearn the limber birthright of our species, which has somehow evolved into an upright society that uses sporks, drinks high tea and came up with finishing school. I also know that if one does not know his or her own body, touching one’s toes can be more painful than root canal surgery. Yet, I also know that when one does not know one’s body, he or she can spend a lifetime trying to medicate aches and pains that are there for a reason, such as lack of stretching. Yoga doesn’t hurt forever; it’s a process that takes time.

Like all good things, we don’t eat a cake before it’s done. We don’t graduate before we have taken all of our classes. We don’t think ourselves happy. Unfortunately, one-hit wonder worship tells us if it don’t look good, taste good or feel good, it ain’t worth it. But for those of us who know yoga, we know that those things result from dedication to the act, not what will result from it when it’s all done. Yoga knows no done. You can buy the pants, drink the power water and pray to eagle on high, but the practice is indefinite and the enlightenment is fleeting. After all, “om” wasn’t built in a day.

Roxanne Sadovsky’s biweekly column appears Thursdays. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]

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