Yoga and Me
I never liked physical education classes in school. I would try to evade them at any cost. What I dreaded the most were the team sports.
What was it exactly that bothered me? I am not quite sure. Was it the group mentality that always had the power to scare me? Was it the roughness, the competitiveness, the murderous looks in my fellow teammates’ eyes whenever I missed the ball? (Which, unfortunately for me, was most of the time.)
Ah, that dreaded ball. Why was it so important to catch it anyway? What was the point of this whole running around? Why were the girls so “into it”? Why wasn’t I? Was there something wrong with me?
And then came acting. Suddenly, I was able to do all kinds of physical stuff that was unimaginable in a PE class at school. My PE teacher came to one of the performances at the National Theatre where I worked and was shocked. “You seem like a whole different person”, she said. “What happened?”
What happened is that, suddenly, I understood (not with my mind but with my whole being) the reason, the goal, the purpose. And the physical stuff followed. Suddenly, what was hard became easy.
And, suddenly, the whole world of physicality, the world that seemed so scary and impossible before, opened up. First came Jane Fonda and her aerobic workouts. In my apartment in Zagreb, in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, I was diligently doing her step workout, feeling like I was a part of the Big World. It was fun. I felt empowered and invigorated. I felt alive.
But when a friend of mine, a lovely actress that I befriended on a forgettable film, showed me the moves to something called Sun Salutation, on an endless, empty beach in the Adriatic, at magic hour, something clicked. I was hooked. For life, as it would turn out. There it was, everything I needed: the peacefulness, the absence of any competition or outside judgment, the aloneness and the inward focus that was, surprisingly, both physical and spiritual. Being alone with yourself. Being in absolute control of your movements, of their rhythm and their depth. The choices were yours. You could go slowly or fast, you could go easy or deep, depending on the day, depending on who you were on that day. Nobody was shouting “faster”, nobody was screaming “you idiot, you’ll make us lose the game”, nobody was judging and scolding and grading “the performance”. In fact, there was no “performance”. You did this for yourself. Only and exclusively for yourself.
It became a need, especially as I moved to America. Is there a more competitive society than the US? I doubt it. Here I was, thrown into the most judgmental industry in the most competitive country in the world. In a supposedly classless society, on any job I did here, the hierarchy in “importance”, the placement on the ladder would always be made crystal clear to everybody, including me.
Yoga became a necessity. To be alone, while surrounded by other people who are just as alone but also connected, to have your eyes closed, to move your body as slowly or as fast as you need to. With nobody observing you critically and grading you and your abilities.
“Who is able to do yoga?” an Indian yoga teacher was asked once upon a time, according to legend. “Anybody who can lift a finger, one finger”, he replied.
For me yoga has been a refuge from the world in “normal times”. Now, in these “abnormal” times, it’s been nothing less than life support. I am far from an expert. But that’s not the point. I can lift a finger. One finger.
So can you.
See you on Saturday.
With love, nonjudgmentally,