I didn’t realize how much weight I’d gained until I attempted to move into a bind in class a few weeks ago. I thought at first that my alignment was off, but, as I attempted to rebuild the pose, it hit me: I couldn’t work my way into Badda Uttihita Parsvakonasana because it wasn’t physically possible. It’s straight up math. I’ve put on 25 pounds, and as such, the circumference of my body now exceeds the length of my arms.
It’s not just the wraps that have become difficult. I can barely manage Bakasana because I can’t bring my knees high enough up on my triceps, and it’s altogether possible I’d suffocate if I attempted plow. Padhimosavasana is spectacularly challenging, and forward folds have taken on an entirely new meaning.
I started practicing yoga in Los Angeles more than 20 years ago. I’d love to say that I came to the mat looking for emotional balance and serenity, but that wasn’t the case. I started doing yoga for the same reason I started lifting weights and running nowhere on treadmills: I wanted to be thin. And, in less than a year, I lost 35 pounds.
I drove my teachers crazy: my vinyasas included an extra push up, and every dog was three-legged. While the rest of the class would work back bands in wheel or bridge, I’d kick up into scorpion, and instead of resting in savasana, I’d do little tiny crunches and hope no one noticed. For the first two years that I practiced, yoga was just another part of my workout. And then it changed.
I was in class contorting myself into pigeon when it happened. I realized that if I relaxed into it — if I stopped trying to resist the discomfort — I could stay in the pose. It didn’t require any physical adjustments. It had nothing to do with my body and everything to do with my mind. When we moved into savasana that day, I experienced it in a way I never had previously: I was not my body. Yoga stopped being about powering through class; it became a spiritual practice.
The last two years have been tough. I left Los Angeles and moved to Sydney and then Boston before I decided on San Francisco in September. Instead of comforting myself with yoga, I’ve been comforting myself with food, and, as a result, yoga’s no longer comfortable.
I’m firing up my practice again. I have to. Not because of the way I look but because of the way I feel. I can’t survive without yoga. For me, it’s all about understanding that my body isn’t my mind, and it’s tough to separate my body from my mind when my mind is in danger of being crushed by my body.