Me and My Yoga: How an anti-exercise, reformed wreck of a man bends his body | Culture Features | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Me and My Yoga: How an anti-exercise, reformed wreck of a man bends his body 

Get down and give me a downward dog. If anyone had told me 10 or 20 years ago that I'd be doing yoga at

Get down and give me a downward dog. If anyone had told me 10 or 20 years ago that I'd be doing yoga at this point in my life, I would've told them to f**k off. After a lifetime of self-inflicted physical and mental abuse with my old friends, drugs and alcohol, I had always subscribed to the belief that I needed a quick fix, no therapy, and definitely not any form of exercise whatsoever.

But then after being clean and sober for almost 10 years, I decided to give it a try. The fact that my girlfriend is a yoga instructor at Namaspa in the Tulen Center didn't hurt either. I finally gave into the dreaded pretzel twisting regime to stop hearing her ask (every five minutes), "When are you going to try my class?" Seriously, what did I have to lose except maybe a few bad thoughts and a coupla unwanted and unsightly pounds? I began by participating in an introductory workshop. When I strutted in wearing my yoga shorts, carrying my new mat and sporting my sweatband/headdress/bandana, I was approached by my classmates as somewhat of a swami. The first question, "how long have you been practicing?" and my response, "umm about two days" put an end to any looks of admiration.

After the workshop I was ready to bite the bullet and go to a regular Batiste Power Yoga class. "Power yoga" is a misleading title because it actually refers to finding power in yourself and your life, rather than being almighty in every move you make. It's all about progress not perfection, a concept I can relate to.

The class starts with rounds of sun salutations, which are like continuing yogi pushups. Then there are all kinds of poses to stretch and strengthen every muscle, like "upward facing dog," chair pose, crow pose, cobra, frog, and on and on. Stretching is the key, although sometimes it gets grueling; at times my hamstrings feel like they were doused in battery acid. My wrecked and war-torn body and physique isn't all that pliable, but I make the most of it. And don't get me wrong, there are times when I look up at the clock and think "my God, it's only been 10 minutes." At this point I'm ready to get into corpse pose (Sevasana) and call it a day. But each day gets a little better and I keep coming back. I saunter out of there feeling kind of what's that word...? Powerful? One of the main philosophies in class is to empty your mind (like that's possible). I am supposed to clear my mind and focus my gaze on my feet in downward dog (a sort of butt-in-the-air push-up position). But I continually find myself looking down and thinking, " that a bunion?" Or I notice that all the hair on my legs from the shin down is gone due to years of wearing socks and contemplate why none of the hair I've lost from my head has at least stuck around my legs. Oh yeah, breathe, empty the mind...

Then there's the heat-did I mention it's hot enough in there to roast a turkey? My sweat pours out in torrents. Believe me, my first instinct was to open a window, but eventually sweating becomes essential to the practice. There's also cool chanting music by Krishna Das-the rock star in me wants to brag to the person next to me about seeing him live, but I set it aside and try again to concentrate.

Like any good mental and physical feat, after it's all over I feel relaxed, relieved, enlightened and...umm...better for it. I was once the guy who would do/try anything so what the hell? Why not try some yoga? It's not about doing it right or competing with others, it's about taking care of myself and doing something healthier for a change. I guess you could say I'm an addict, but it's a rewarding experience to be hooked on something that's actually good for me. If some horribly non-exercising reformed alcoholic-mess can hang in there I think almost all of us can. Namaste, bitches.

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