I’m what you might call a straight-shooter. Not a big sufferer of fools. The antithesis of anything New Age-related. Grounded in the here and now. I limit my fantastical journeys to my imagination and my writing. I’m also not much for fads or trends, in fashion, exercise, or otherwise. All this to say that I used to be a yoga cynic.
When yoga first became popular, there was no way to predict that it would outlast taebo or zumba or jazzercise. Celebs like Christy Turlington promoted it. All the Hollywood types were doing it. Even though it stemmed from an ancient tradition, to a laywoman’s eye it looked like just another appropriation of Asian culture (though I still think an argument can be made there). Until I took a class, that was.
I’m still not sure what led me to try it out. I’ve never really been a sporty person. I prefer solitary or autonomous forms of exercise that can be done outdoors: swimming, walking, biking. I’m gym-phobic as a rule, and am always looking for a more natural way to tone by body. Something about yoga must have appealed to me, but ten years on, I can’t remember what. All I know is that I love it.
My first yoga teacher, Joanne, would always start our classes off with an intention. Something to keep in mind while working our way through the day’s poses. As mentioned, I have a bit of a knee-jerk hatred of anything too esoteric (or ‘woo-woo’, as the kids say), but I thought this technique—of taking something from our day to day and working through it as we exercised—brought some of the airier yoga concepts down to earth.
I’ve also been astonished by how emotional one can become while practicing yoga. If you really devote yourself to learning the breath-control aspect, it can be very affecting on certain days or during trying periods of your life. Technique can help you through major and minor life events, such as when I used the controlled breathing to endure a 45-minute MRI scan or relax before delivering the eulogy at my grandfather’s funeral.
For the past year, I have re-devoted myself to my practice. It has helped me through a great many highs and lows. Now, I’m not some size-zero nymph. I’m flexible, but not a contortionist. I still do beginner-level poses; I likely always will. I am not a yoga teacher or scholar. The following represents nothing but my personal thoughts and experience, which may not match your own.
But I find solace in the practice of yoga. The work involved in achieving each pose is both ongoing and fascinating. So I thought I would talk a bit about my own experience with each pose once a month, hopefully in a relatable sort of way (forgive me if I get a little too ‘woo-woo’ in the telling). This month, we’ll start with my favorite pose: trikonasana, or the triangle pose.
Triangle pose has always been easy for me, which can be dangerous. You can get sloppy with poses you’re adept at if you’re not careful. In yoga, you strive to be relaxed but engaged, and if that engagement lapses, then you derive no benefit from the pose. For me, the triangle pose is a reminder to always be present, to pay attention to the minute details, to never be complacent.
It’s also a joy. As the girl who always got picked last at team sports, it boosted my confidence to be able to do this pose with ease. It helped me to discover that though I’m not thin, I’m flexible. It taught me to enjoy physical fitness. But most of all, it brought me peace. There is something about holding this pose, really giving myself over to it, that transports me to a place of serenity. I don’t have to fight anything. I can just be.
Blogger Chanti Tacoronte-Perez describes the pose as “grounding versus aspiration”. One hand to the earth, one hand reaching for the stars. The whole body is extended toward the sky, but the feet remain firmly planted. It’s asymmetrical, off-kilter, a unique way of viewing the world. It’s little wonder I feel so comfortable in it: that’s an apt description of me.
If you practice, what does the triangle pose mean to you? Join me in a month for the next instalment of my yoga diary.