Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thoughts from My First Yoga Experience: Adam Kern

By any measure, I was in pretty bad shape at age 25.  I had smoked for many years, despite quitting months prior, had imbibed far too liberally through my teens and twenties, seldom did any physical exercise, I had yet to have a caring romantic relationship at all, my appetite was severely askew, and as if there was a cherry on top, I had recently lost my job.  Spiritually, well, this was vast void that colored my oscillating moods, and pulled me down whenever I was weak.  In my epic fight against all these issues, I was not as miserable as you may think.  On the contrary, I was involved in my very first loving relationship, I had started to attend a church I quite enjoyed, and the smoking and drinking were removed from my life.  So when my girlfriend asked if I’d join her for a yoga class, I said “what the hell?”
            My expectation was thus: women.  ONLY women.  Incense.  Lots of it.  Ommmmmmmmm!  Zen.  Slow, boring movement like that of 85-year-old Chinese folk in a park somewhere.  Canned, “blissful” nuggets of self-realization and “empowerment.”  Maybe talk of the latest trends in recycling and vegetables to follow.  Yet still, my girlfriend was quite beautiful, and had to bat her eyelashes but once for me to acquiesce like a doe-eyed puppy.  When we arrived, things were as I thought: incense, and I was the only guy.  Well, we paid, got our rental mats, and did what everyone else was doing (sitting cross-legged.)  Yippie.  Class began with some discussion of how the mind is always bombarded with thoughts, that instead of fighting them, contrary to my tactic for finding a semblance of peace, we should acknowledge them.  Then let them go.  We were promised we could try this during class, and especially during meditation afterwards. 
            The asana began.  My memory recalls no sequence per se, but I recall working much harder than I had anticipated.  Then, at one point, and I could admit this now, the women whom I thought I was just so naturally stronger than, were hardly phased.  In fact, though their breathing was heavier, mine was out of control and I felt like keeling over.  They were in way better condition than I!  Then came the triangle pose.  So tight was I, and so exhausted, I felt that I might honestly collapse right there, and die.   To follow were backbends, and forward bends…then they all stood on their heads!  I was amazed, dazed, spent, but oddly energetic too.  In meditation at the end, and I swear it was no more than two full breaths, I had, in the words of the teacher “acknowledged and waved ‘goodbye’” to so many thoughts, that no others came.  Just.  Breath.  We om’ed.  The end.
            That was the beginning.  After thanking the instructor, we walked outside into the bright winter sunshine.  I felt tall, because my back still felt “bent.”  In a car’s reflection, my weirdly thrust-out back didn’t look weird at all.  I was standing up straight…and it felt wonderful!  A feeling of “oxygenation” and liveliness also filled me up, I supposed as a result of extended deep breathing.  I was hooked.
            Since then, six years later, I’ve seen my girlfriend (though we’re not together any more) go through teacher training and have myself followed some years later.  I still attend class regularly, and now teach regularly.  I’m still learning how to meditate, still learning asana.  I’ve been to studios in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Colombia, Canada, and all over NYC.  I still attend the studio from where my journey began, and am a welcomed guest at the owner’s Shabbat dinners any Friday night I wish.  I even sub at that studio sometimes. 
            No, not everything is fixed, its not one of those blurbs.  No.  In fact, having picked up cigarettes in the wake of a painful break-up, I was known to smoke Newport 100’s after my yoga teacher-training classes.  I’ve had some terrible relationships in the past six years.  I’ve had some great and awful jobs during that time, and some people close to me have died.  My appetite is still highly abnormal.  My peace of mind is but slightly improved.  Yet with the constant practice of yoga in all aspects of my life, not just on the mat, I have hope…incredible hope that can lift my spirit at any time.  I have tools now.  Spiritual tools that I can use whenever I wish (though often I still fail to use them.)  I’m in fine physical health (having quit smoking again), and more frequently moments of true peace occur.  That may be the greatest gift of all.  Knowing that the journey has no end; that the practice is constant and ever evolving, never boring, always different…I love this.  I love yoga.  I thank G-d right now, simply recalling my yogic journey’s beginning.  So what the heck?  I’ll say it.  Namaste.  

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