day 12: some thoughts on yoga

I’ve been asked many times, by my students and friends, a question that sounds something like this:

How many more yoga classes do I need to take before I can do a headstand?

I used to try to answer with something optimistic: you’ve been looking really strong so just keep coming and I’m sure it will happen soon, but now a days I’m blunt: I have no idea how many more classes it will take you, maybe one, maybe hundreds, maybe you will never do a headstand. 

Then they give me The Look and say, well if I’m never going to be able to do a headstand, why am I going to yoga?

Yoga doesn’t work like that. We don’t practice because of the promise of some far away happiness or peace. You can’t unroll your mat because you’ve heard yoga can make you more flexible and less of a bitch. You can’t just love the end results.

You have to love the process.

You have to love sitting still, doing nothing, having your dogs lick your face, being sweaty, crying, reliving old memories, the days you can’t focus, the days you can’t breathe, being sore, being tired, being made fun of, reading really old books, chanting, learning Sanskrit, questioning everything you’ve ever learned and think to be true.

Just like with climbing. You can’t just love sending. You have to be madly in love with the uphill hikes, falling, having to wait until the rain stops, fingertips that pulse and sting, flailing, doing core, being injured, being poor, being cold, driving across multiple states, feeling scared, wind, bloody knees, smelling like a goat, getting lost, being hungry.

There are a lot of people out there who just do things because of a desired end result. I see them everywhere and sometimes I am one of them. They’re easy to spot because no matter what they’re doing, they’re the ones not having any fun.

And you can’t blame those people–sometimes the process is painfully slow and hopeless. Sometimes you’ll write every day for twenty years and never publish anything. Sometimes you’ll climb every day until your fingers bleed and not send a thing in Bishop that season. Maybe you wake up at 5am to practice yoga and you still kind of want to slap the the waiter that put mayo on your burger for a second time.

Sometimes I get in these little slumps where I don’t want to do any of the work–I don’t want to unroll my mat, go for a run, pull on plastic in a climbing gym, update this blog. Laziness isn’t even a strong enough word for it. Sometimes I have to drag myself out of bed, off of Facebook, into something other than an oversized Cal t-shirt, I lace up my running shoes with a scowl, I stomp around and pout for a minute before I ultimately get my ass out the door and just go for a damn run that always turns out to be gorgeous and life affirming.

You just have to show up every day, you have to do what you can, train your ass off, get some words on the page even if you think they aren’t worthy of publishing and maybe you should just delete this whole post because no one wants to read this and you could have written something better and yeah maybe you should just shut the computer now and call it a day.

I really didn’t want to write tonight but I’m glad I did.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amanda
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 11:48:30


    I’m a recent University of Chicago grad, Kripalu yoga teacher, violinist, and yet-to-be-employed 22-year-old. I have been following your blog since last summer when I was seeking good writing and inspiration. You’re a phenomenal writer. Just wanted to let you know you have an East Coaster who always feels better after reading your words, in spite of how turbulent this time of life is. Happy Sunday 🙂



  2. ris
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 12:45:48

    “I lace up my running shoes with a scowl, I stomp around and pout for a minute before I ultimately get my ass out the door and just go for a damn run that always turns out to be gorgeous and life affirming.” I love this image because that’s totally what it’s like sometimes. I always have to remind myself that no one ever says, “damnit, I’m so mad at myself for going on that run yesterday” whereas if you don’t…


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