When you walk into my office at O2 Yoga in Cambridge, Massachusetts, you will see one of my most highly held beliefs written in the middle of a whiteboard: "No matter what kind of day I'm having, yoga makes it better." One of our regular students Jesse asked me once, "Who said that -- Pattabhi Jois?" No, Jesse. It wasn't the founder of Astanga Yoga. It was I, Wolfstar, Yoga Studio Manager & Practioner Extraordinaire. It's my saying because it is something I hold true in my experience. Whenever a student or workstudy member or cafe staff personnel or teacher comes into the office to sit on the World's Most Comfortable Couch to ask whether or not they should practice that day, I simply point at the board:
End of discussion.
Recently, my own motto was put to the test during the studio's annual 31 Day Challenge. We offer a $31 January deal that allows students to practice every day for that amount and for every day they do so, they earn a discount for February. Now, as the studio manager, my yoga membership is part of my paycheck so there is absolutely no reason for me to be competitive about this Challenge. But I was determined to do all 31 days. I have an almost-daily practice, as is, but occasionally life happens and I skip a day here or there. Not in January, though. I was going to do it. And everything was going great until the last week when I got a horrible cough that chicken/egg'd with complete exhaustion. Any sane, rational person would have taken this as a sign to go home, yoga will be there for you another day.
Say what you will about me, but I did not listen to sane/rational and I went to class anyway.
The thing about doing yoga when you're not feeling 100% -- be it wellness, be it an injury, but it exhaustion, hangover, or emotional what-have-you -- is you won't know if it's a good idea until that first downward facing dog. I don't drink much anymore and can't remember the last time I was hungover, but back in the day, I went to a class once after a night of pretty terrific drinking -- at noon on a Saturday, mind you -- and realized in the first seated twist that I was still drunk. Class was maybe not the best idea that day. It was also a January Basics class and I was all the way in the front corner, trapped with fifty other people all just trying to enjoy their weekend and I could not leave the class. I made it through -- I even give it credit for sobering me up and eliminating my hangover -- but it was definitely not the best idea I ever had.
But a lot of the time, yoga helps work injuries and illness out. Lots of poses are designed to aid in healing. The key is to do the postures correctly and safely, of course, but when you have a handle on that, there is nothing better than that good yoga glow you get after a stellar practice. I feel very fortunate to be trained in a style of yoga that emphasizes safety in postures so I can feel confident that what I'm doing is productive.
So, yes, I did all 31 Days in January -- today is actually the first day I am taking off from my mat since, oh, December 29th. Yoga is part of my daily life, my daily ritual, my daily reminder to be here now. Nothing grounds me more in this moment than the focus and precision that goes along with an athletic and sometimes complicated practice that, at the time, is the simple linking of breath and movement. I do it every day because I love it -- because it makes me happy -- because it gives me an excuse to do one thing at a time. Writing this makes me almost want to cancel my dinner plans, throw on my yoga gear, and scoot to the studio, but I won't. I will take a day off, only knowing how sweet it will be to get back on my mat again tomorrow.
Must be love, kids. Must be love.