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Poetry & Yoga

After being gone for a long weekend (I had a wedding to attend near where I went to college), I’m having trouble getting back into my routine. The gray weather and my irregular sleep pattern is putting a damper on my writing and increasing my need to nap. Since writing has been going poorly, I’m reading old journal entries of mine and listening to podcasts about topics like mental health and spirituality. All of these things seem to be bringing me back to yoga, poetry, and the relationship between the two.

Poetry, like many of the greatest things in life, lacks a concrete definition. A creative writing professor once asked our class to explain what poetry means to us using metaphor. My answer was something about poetry being like yoga because both are spiritual exercises I’ve studied a bit, read a lot about, and yet can’t seem to take part in without the fear I’m not doing it right.

Last night, I listened to a “Speaking of Faith” episode (A show from APM that is now called “On Being”) with famous Yoga Instructor Seane Corn. Her thoughts about Yoga and how it impacts our lives spoke so deeply to me, I went back and listened to the entire uncut interview (which was about forty minutes longer and much more conversational than the 53 minute radio show). Ms. Corn is young and didn’t go to college or take any traditional life path. Her wisdom and ability to articulate life experiences and spirituality astounded me.

My yoga instructor in college often reminded us that Yoga is always a practice. Having been a perfectionist for most of my life, this non-competitive nature invigorated me. Sports had been a huge part of my life growing up. Soccer consumed most of my high school days. I played on a club team almost an hour away from where I lived. This required driving to practices three times a week, games even further away twice a week. Plus, we even traveled the Midwest to compete in tournaments. Soccer taught  me a great deal about myself and helped me meet a beautiful variety of people. I don’t regret the way I considered it a huge part of my identity or the time I invested in it.

That being said, it has little to do with my life today. Many people don’t even know soccer had such a huge influence on me. After being forced to face my depression in college, I realized it had served as another avenue where I could focus on everything I did wrong. Yoga introduced the idea that it was less about the final result or goal and more about the actual experience. Sure, there’s improvement, weight-loss, muscle-toning, and other things to strive for in yoga. That’s not why I do it, though. Now that I am practicing yoga regularly again, I’m reminded at the imperfection that comes along with it. Some days I fall out of a balance pose, other days I get wrapped up in my plans for afterward or a conversation I had the night before. Yoga requires me to gently accept these things and try to return to mindfulness.

Seane Corn talked about these imperfections that reveal themselves during practice and how we must accept them as part of who we are. I wrote down this quote from her about yoga practice, “It’s authentic to who the person is. It’s their own poetry.” This caused me to reflect on my metaphor of poetry as yoga from years ago. I still lack confidence in yoga and even more in poetry, but I also find much more solace in them. It’s less about what I might screw up and much more about the process. It’s no surprise so many poets are trying to write about seeking something greater than our five senses can attain. Even the conventionally religious poets (the talented ones, anyway) seem to understand the complexity of seeking something beyond our five senses. Poets try to articulate feelings and experiences that straight forward words can’t do. Yoga is a way to align the mind and body on a level that runs much deeper than what words can express. Both seem to be food for my soul, which seems like a cliche expression to use at the end of this entry focusing on language. Have fun with that irony.