10 Things I’m Refusing to Learn from Yoga
aka Why I don’t write about Yoga
I suffer from a rare back-disease called Scheuermann’s. That’s basically a heavily bent and rounded spinal cord with all sorts of lumbar distortions.
When I got diagnosed (at the age of 19), my doctor told me I should try and lose some weight, else simple things like walking would soon become troublesome.
So I did. I lost 40kgs. And chuck walking, I started running. Marathons.
That helped. But my back continued to be a mess. Severe, random, shooting pain in the middle-back was an everyday reality. But I learnt to live with it.
Few years ago, when I was, by all biometric markers, in peak physical shape (sub 13% body fat, lifting heavy, running sub-2hr marathons), I lost 2 days on a Euro-trip because I just couldn’t get up.
My back had caved-in. The slightest movement would trigger an unbearable wave of pain. I was bed-ridden, and I was scared. I knew this would come, but not this soon.
Cut to a few weeks back. We just returned from a trip to Israel and Jordan.
From exploring all of Tel Aviv on foot, to completing all 3 major treks in Petra, we walked, on average, 15kms every day of the trip. Plus long hours in tour buses. Plus not much sleep in between. The perfect spell to summon my back-demons.
And yet, no back pain. None whatsoever.
Believe me, I checked. I even tried imagining it. I was almost willing it to happen, while hoping it wouldn’t. If that makes any sense.
But it never came. Physically, it was the happiest vacation I’ve been on in recent memory. And the only thing that’s changed in my workout routine, is Yoga.
Which brings me to last night. I was re-counting this same story to a friend, when she asked — ‘You seem to have learnt so much from yoga. Why don’t you write about it?’
I could sense a slight exasperation in her voice. And I understood why.
From weight-trainingto runningto IF, I’ve covered pretty much every major topic under the fitness sun, on this blog. Why then, if I was so convinced about Yoga, was I not writing about it and spreading the word?
The short answer, is because I don’t think I know anything about it. I just know it works, but I don’t know how.
And that’s by design. I don’t know because I’ve haven’t yet tried to know. I want to experience it first, like a lover, before I study it, like a student. If that too, makes any sense.
This thing, of doing before reading, of experiencing before researching, has been a constant philosophy of this blog. And nothing explains it better, than this excerpt from the first-ever blog post I wrote on FITSHIT.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern amongst people who decide to get fit but can’t seem to get started. Most, once they’ve made the decision, fire up their laptops, go to Google, and start searching. Then, one of two things happens.
Either the clickbait monster gobbles them up with lists of things to do, or they get fascinated by one idea (running, gymming, intermittent fasting) and start researching it like a pro. They read books, follow blogs, see youtube videos and so on. And with all the freely accessible, mind-numbing, clickbait-y content available on the web, you could do this for hours on end.
A few days of this, and many become theoretical experts on the subject. Not having run half-a-km at a stretch, they can tell you about pronation and gait and cadence and max heart rate. While gorging on cookie after cookie, they can tell you why Ketosis is the natural state the human body should be in. And without having lifted a single weight, they can write a tome about muscle tear and recovery and the right amount of protein one needs for bulking.
Basically, without taking even the first step, they’ve inundated themselves with data. Overwhelmed themselves with facts. And all this knowledge, without the anchor of physical experience, just leaves them drifting. A sea of possibilities ahead of them and no one direction they’re headed in. No wonder then, that the ship of their fitness journey either gets lost at sea, or lands up at some unknown shore.
Step 1 is to start.
Pursuing fitness has great benefits for both mind and body (and soul, I’d argue). But remember, fitness is a physiological problem first. Not an intellectual one.
As I look back, it seems like I wrote these words for Yoga (though, at the time, I used to think of it as an elaborate form of stretching that old people do early morning in big groups)
I’m into month 7 of my Yoga practice, and just like when I started running many years ago, I’m in love.
I get up everyday looking forward to my Yoga class. I’m a new man every time I emerge out of shavasana at the end of the class. And I’m grumpy every day I don’t get to go. True love.
Yet (rather hence) I refuse to read up about it.
I can see that Yoga targets muscle groups that I’d never be able to isolate during weight-training. But I refuse to confirm this observation.
Every time we hold a pose for long, I see how even the simplest of postures can turn unbearable over-time. It’s a great parallel for life. But I let that thought pass. I refuse to dwell upon it.
I observe how the smallest change in the direction of my toe, changes the entire aasana and my experience with it. How, going just a bit deeper in a stance, opens up whole new vistas. How the mere act of relaxing my face, relaxes my entire body. And how, remembering to breathe deeply, consciously, brings me back and takes me inwards.
But I refuse to confirm or deny any of these observations with science.
Yoga cured my back-pain. Something that doctors, pain-killers and physiotherapy sessions were able to subdue temporarily, at best. I have every incentive to research the shit out of it, to know exactly how it works and make sure I never lose it. But I refuse to.
Because Yoga is magic. And I’m not breaking the spell with logic.
Not for now atleast. Not until I feel it’s become a part of me.
I took me three years to get to that stage with running. It was after my first marathon that I knew we’d always be together. It’s now been about three years that I haven’t run long distance. But I feel no anxiety. I know running is not going anywhere. It’s a part of me. I can get back to it whenever I wish.
I want to reach that stage with Yoga.
I’m in love, but we’re still dating.
Also published on Medium.
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