Mountaineering (Day 1)

I am standing in tadasana, the mountain pose.  I feel more like a recently-transplanted, withering old wobbly tree whose roots haven’t quite taken, but a mountain is what we’re going for and a mountain it is.

My feet are planted firmly at the top of the ratty purple yoga mat I keep at home. The one that the cats like to scratch on. If I look out to the side, I can see the Mediterranean beckoning me through the morning haze.  “Wouldn’t you like to be relaxing near me? Perhaps sipping a cafe con leche at the chiringuito? But I look ahead. A pop-art Buddha I got in Siem Reap sits atop the TV stand we got from IKEA. He reminds me to focus.

I make sure I’m in the proper position.  Feet parallel, big toes touching at the top of the mat. I fan my toes to the best of my ability, which has never been all that great.  I engage my thighs and think about rotating them slightly inward. Everything lifts up. Core is engaged. I shrug my shoulders and let them fall down and back. A quick tilt of the pelvis towards the legs makes sure I am aligned correctly.

I take a slow, deep breath and am ready to begin the first movement of Sun Salute A, aka Surya Namaskara A.

I pause.  It’s been a while since I’ve done this. It’s not like I don’t know how. It’s not like I haven’t done literally hundreds, if not thousands, of these in the last 20 or so years.  It’s not like I didn’t do around 40 of them a week for a few months when I started Ashtanga last December. Then I tore my adductor in February. A torn adductor does not a happy asana make.

I’ve been thinking about restarting my practice for several weeks now.  I know I’m better, but I also am well aware I’m not fully recovered. Like my groin, my mind is torn between knowing the yoga could help me heal faster, but could also re-aggravate the injury if I’m not careful.  And so I’ve been, perhaps, erring on the side of caution. I don’t exaggerate when I say I am petrified of pulling something new, or fucking up an injury that hasn’t quite healed, or just being in pain. There’s been too much pain the past several months. I’m not used to it. Nor do I want to put myself in a situation where I have to get used to it.

On the other hand, I don’t want to be like all too many of the people I know, many of whom I love, who have lost their mobility.  These are the thing I think about now, in my mid-50s. How did that happen?

I do know I’m getting better.  I know I’m good with forward movement. I know I’m not so confident (and not yet cleared by my physio) with anything aggressive on the lateral front.  But how much damage could a Sun Salute do? It’s basically a warm up. It’s just a beginning.

I’m standing at the beginning. I breathe in, thinking about the first movement. I breathe in again.

I hate beginnings.  No, that’s not exactly true and hate is a strong word. Beginnings make me anxious.

What I hate is starting over. Starting over makes me feel like a failure … that I should not have stopped whatever I was doing when I felt like I was making progress (or felt like I was stagnating).

I do this with running (which I’ve just been able to get back to). I’m in the middle of doing with with swimming (thinking, thinking, thinking but not doing). I do it with writing. I do it with keeping a bullet journal and daily diaries. I do it with almost anything I say I’m going to make a habit of.

Maybe my habit is starting over. Or more appropriately, putting off starting over until there is some internal or external catalyst that goes “kerbang” and pushes me out of my comfort zone and back onto the starting block.

Maybe I need to be better about defining what I’m embarking on and whether or not it actually means “starting over.”

Maybe I need to just start and quit thinking about it.

I am standing tall.  Go on, look at me! I am that fucking mountain.  Mount Tadasana, how noble you rise!

I breathe in, preparing for the first movement.

Fuck me. I don’t know why this is such a struggle. How many times have I started over? I have had more reinventions than Madonna. I lived in 6 U.S. cities after high school.  I’ve taken weekend holidays and stayed for 4 and a half years. I came to Barcelona for a 2-month gig, and it’s been almost six years now. In the last 15 years alone, I’ve lived in 8 different flats in 3 countries. I’ve gone through career changes and made successes of them.  I tell people it’s witness relocation, but maybe it’s just wanderlust. Or making the most of the opportunities yonder Universe has provided. I should have this new beginning thing down pat.

But starting over, as irrational as it may be for someone who could write the manual, simply does my head in.  And the older I get, it’s far easier to retreat to the sofa and binge at the Netflix buffet than face a challenge.  Which, in itself, presents the challenge.

I start, then I lose momentum, and then I peter out.  Eventually, I feel the need to start again. Which makes me feel like I’ve wasted so much time during the ‘not-doing’.  So I start and get discouraged and then I have to go through the false-beginner stage where I feel like I’m starting over and if only I had kept with it I’d be so much stronger, faster, limber, advanced, productive, creative (insert any other rando selection from the litany of you’re-not-good-enough adjectives).  How do you say “vicious circle” in Spanish?

Stand tall.  Breathe in. Prepare to move.

I mindfully move my hands into prayer position, I exhale slowly and prepare to go into the upward salute, Urdhva Hastasana.

The sun breaks through the cloudy morning and blasts on to the side of my face, like the beginning of this pose is being spotlit by a higher being.  It feels so hot, like I’m back in a Bikram studio.

I don’t remember beginning many specific  different styles of yoga, but my first day of Bikram was a disaster …

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