I was rock climbing a year ago at a gym in Arcadia with a friend of mine wondering, “Why don’t do I do this more often?” Everything about it felt good. Climbing, stretching, lifting myself off the ground, clinging to a wall and feeling very much like a spider. All of this and I’m not even very good. I’ve rock climbed maybe 15 times in my life. I can remember even being deathly afraid at the top once when I was a Boyscout and I had to be talked down (Same thing happened at Splash Mountain as well). I like hopping around on boulders and dodging snakes when I’m in the desert. At a party when I get uncomfortable I’ll often find a tree and perch myself up top. It’s as good an excuse as any not to talk to anyone. But why don’t I do it more often?
This was the question I asked myself maybe three months ago. It took about 90 seconds before I came up with some detailed answers–distance, cost and fear, though laziness was probably the right choice–but I did also think a little bit more about what I enjoyed about rock climbing in the first place. Stretching, clinging, lifting, climbing. All of them involving entire body movements. (Side note: my favorite event during the Olympics has always been gymnastics, and I’ve always felt a little weird admitting that.) Plus, that feeling of just losing my brain in the activity if only for a few moments. How could I do THAT every day?
The answer didn’t take 90 seconds.
I always liked yoga and sort of like rock climbing it was something I wanted to do more often but just didn’t. I’m stubborn. My brother has pushed yoga on me since he was in college and that alone is enough to make me hold back. Otherwise, it seemed the people around me who did yoga were…well…extremists. Born again Christians but yogis instead. They talked to me about angels and third eyes and chakras and they spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand but all I really wanted to do was breathe and move and calm the fuck down.
A friend of mine is a yoga instructor and she works for a company called yogavibes. She set me up with them since more than anything I’m terrified of going into a class. (It’s really no different than my anxiety before the first day of school.) I started the online classes and it was good and within a week I felt different. I wasn’t really challenging myself though. I was just experimenting. Trying different things, different classes. I suppose more than anything it felt to good sit still and breathe for several hours a week. That has got to be good for you, right?
But there was more.
Last month I graduated myself to some harder classes. I did all right too. Even on the days when I was hung over or tired I just did my best to plow through and do everything as well as I could do it. One morning I felt really great. I had gotten a lot of rest. I didn’t drink. I didn’t stay out late or even sleep in. I was more pumped than I had ever been and so I brought up a class.
All I did is fall down.
Not just a little either. At almost every turn I was wobbly. My legs were jello, I had no equilibrium. I wasn’t even doing anything altogether difficult. I just could not stay afloat. I slowed down, I breathed, I got up and I tried again, and again I hit the floor. It wasn’t happening. I did this on repeat for about 20 minutes before I fell down and stayed down and buried my face into the sweaty mat and started crying. It wasn’t frustration. I can remember crying from being so pissed I couldn’t figure out a proof in Geometry. I can remember crying when a really shitty day at work ended with a parking ticket in Santa Monica. This wasn’t that. This was something else altogether. This felt like some sort of mental detox. I let it out for a few minutes and then picked myself up and finished the class, still falling, but managing to push my way through nonetheless.
The rest of that day I was calm and cool and better than I had been in recent memory.
I wouldn’t say that calmness was fleeting. I was good the next day, but not quite the same. That moment had to be built upon though. Layered. It was merely the beginnings of a foundation, not the foundation itself. What we love we must do often lest it perish. That makes it not unlike an addiction. But maybe we could rephrase it. Instead of needing it to survive, maybe we need it to live.
I still can’t tell you what a chakra is. I don’t know about third eyes or angels and I still don’t understand why every word in sanskrit rhymes with each other, despite being incredibly fun to say. But I do know that when I was a kid I liked climbing on rocks and on boulders and hanging upside down and feeling the blood rush to my head. Not much has changed really. The only difference between then and now is the hanging upside down takes practice.
© 2013 Christopher Dart