I’ve joked about being addicted to yoga before, but it was more in that way that people have (that normally drives me crazy) of using “OCD” and “ADD” and “bipolar” as colorful adjectives rather than serious diagnoses.  But I started to really enumerate my symptoms while I was driving to work  one day (commuting and showering are great for thinking), and it might as well have been an intervention in a Civic.  

My DSM-worthy behaviors include thoughts like, “my work is getting in the way of my yoga,” a physical itchiness when I miss a class, willingness to take on extra hours at work to pay for my monthly class card (prostitution isn’t particularly yogic, so I’ll stick with a semi-conventional job), and countless instances where I decline an invitation to go out with friends so that I can go to yoga. 

The last item is really the most problematic.  Making up excuses because you don’t want to go out is one thing, but valuing your friends and facing the friend/yoga conundrum is another. 

The thing is, I’m fairly useless to my friends if I don’t take care of introverted, solitary self first and foremost.  Yoga is an intense practice of poses combined with meditation, and if there were rules, the number one rule would be not to compete with anyone else, especially yourself, because your practice is already perfect just as it is.  It sounds simple, and even cheesy, but for someone who has never NOT beaten herself up to get all As, to snag the editor-in-chief position, to have the best watercolor of the term, and to stay in size 0 jeans (I never want to be a size 0 again, for the record), it’s a mind-blowing statement.  And the best part is that in the midst of a practice, it’s impossible not to believe.  I can’t have a yoga practice if I don’t let go, and that requires getting to a decent place in my mind and concentrating only on breathing, which is harder than it sounds.  But once all of that is in place, the physical practice comes together.  

My yoga classes sometimes have students who are completely new to yoga, and sometimes, they’re guys who flat-out say that they “figured yoga couldn’t be that hard, since it’s just stretching that women do.”  By the end of the class, those guys are the ones in the most agony, and smugness also isn’t yogic, but I’m only human.  Because yoga is what you put into it, and a lot of times, it’s damn hard.  I have more muscles now than I ever did before, and those muscles mean far more to me than jutting hip bones ever did.  It’s only because of my focus and letting go that I can do things I never thought my body would be capable of.  

Then again, I can’t always do amazing things–If I’m holding onto a bad day or if I’ve eaten a pre-class dinner full of junk, my body lets me know.  And I love that my body and I are actually working together, for once.  That also means that after an intense class, I can replenish my calories with a beloved Sevananda Fakin’ Bacon BLT.  (Not that I wouldn’t eat it anyway, but in this case, it absolutely has a purpose.)

Classes are full of truisms from the instructor, and my favorite one is, “Let go of that which does not serve you.”  In the middle of ardha chandrasana, that most likely means, “If your arm is up in the air because you want to be ‘the best,’ but you’re in agony, move it to your hip where you can function properly.”  I always need that reminder, and I keep it with me when I’m not at yoga, and it’s surprising to see how many things you start really believing do not serve you, and then you’re just that much more free.  I’ve even used yoga breath techniques to ward off snowballing worries when I’m at the movies. (I have a terrible tendency not to pay attention to the movie, and instead, spend 90 minutes obsessing about a small anxiety.  And I pay $7.00+ to do that.)  And it’s things like that that lead me to believe that my addiction is fine, and I CAN’T stop anytime I want, because yoga does serve me.

“Yoga is not something that can be attained through self-coersion or through striving. It can be realized only through a tenuous balance of skillful effort and fearless surrender.” 
~Donna Farhi