July| Vol. 22 No. 8.02 | Christian's Chronicles © 2015 – All rights reserved.
As many of our loyal readers are already aware, and for some of our international audience who may not be aware, this past Monday was a holiday commemorating the famous civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Most of us in the U.S. of A are at least somewhat familiar with his eloquent writing, inspirational leadership of nonviolent protests against segregation, his “I have a dream” speech, and his eventual assassination. For all the Wikipedia-philosophers out there, I’ve included links just to boost my credibility via references to that ubiquitous and freely editable source of superficial knowledge.
Returning to the purpose of the present Chronicle, yesterday I acquired a new-found appreciation for this man’s contributions. During Yoga.
I should perhaps initially deal with the revelation that I have been doing Yoga. I confess, it is true. Yoga may not be what most people would think I’d prefer to do for physical activity, but it has sort of grown on me in the past couple of months. And, there may be good reasons for that.
First, despite what many of my friends are likely to say under interrogation, I have always been open to new experiences. So it should be no surprise that I am open to giving Yoga a try, reflecting my tolerant, open nature being the enlightened human being that I am.
Second, in my general awesomeness and eclectic pursuit of… everything, I have accumulated a collection of mementos in the form of various aches and pains throughout my battered body, as reminders of the decades of abuse I put myself through in the sport of wrestling, mixed-martial-arts, jiu-jitsu, and various other forms of legalized assault and battery. Such quirky reminders of the good-old-days have started to cry for attention more and more. Hence my introduction to acupuncture last year. Yoga, I suppose, is an activity I’ve taken up due to similar motivations.
Finally, let us not ignore the importance of yoga pants. Spandex, or that which we call by any other name, equals a type of motivation for exercise that leaves little to the imagination and has even yielded a website called girlsinyogapants.com. All in all, it is tough to argue with an activity that eases my aches and pains, provides much needed exercise and relaxation, and has the added benefit of an attractive environment where being part of the minority gender only reaffirms my courage, turning my willingness to participate into a badge of approval as an open-minded modern male comfortable with his own vulnerability… and yoga pants.
So, there I was, in yoga class.
For those who have yet to try yoga, it is more than just stretching and yoga pants. It is a workout. It requires physical effort, balance, and concentration. And there is plenty of sweat. Especially in the particular class I happened to be taking.
The class is in a dark studio, where students armed with yoga blocks, mats, and water spread out on the floor as the instructor leads them through the workout speaking via a microphone headset over music that plays through the hour. On this particular occasion, the music was appropriate to the holiday. It was a collection of songs that had been essentially Dr. King’s speeches set to music.
I thought this was a thoughtful, interesting, and appropriate way to connect with the holiday.
Until we hit something called the frog pose.
This was toward the end of the session, after I had already produced a small lake of sweat on and around my mat. We had already done the ‘strength and conditioning’ type of work, and now it was the last stretch, literally and figuratively. So we folded our mats to provide extra support to the knees, which are spread wide while on all fours, allowing a deep stretch in the groin as gravity pulls the body toward the earth, creating the image that resembles the namesake of the pose: a frog’s legs bending almost at 180 degrees to each side and creating what can only be described as the sensation of terror and a futile attempt to resist in the hips as they attempt to understand why they are forced to bend in ways in which human legs were perhaps never meant to point.
We held this pose, as we listened to Dr. King speak over music.
The entire “I have a dream” speech.
To say I gained a new-found appreciation for the struggles of the civil rights movement is an understatement. I was going through my own struggles, and it was only with holding a pose that our instructor half-jokingly described as “if it feels horrible you are doing it right.”
And I was praying.
I was praying for Dr. King to stop talking. I had a dream, too. It was of moving my legs horizontally, again. As they were meant to move, forward and back. I realized that I did not know the speech quite as well as I thought I had. Just when I thought it was ending, it continued. Again, and again. Sure, it was eloquent and inspirational. And I tried to tell myself that if all those people can engage in a noble struggle in pursuit of equality, I too, shall overcome and last all the way until the end of the speech in the frog pose. The puddle of sweat growing to a flood beneath me, my hips sinking lower as my groin expanded its range of motion to hitherto unknown capacities and beyond, I only had my breath, MLK, and my dream that I shall overcome.
Finally, it was over. “Free at last, free at last!” Thank God almighty, I was free at last. No words had ever rung as true.
But relief did not come as suddenly as that. I had to slowly shift my weight forward and try to re-learn a range of motion more rationally acceptable to my learned or otherwise acquired physical limitations, before I could return to what my mind would recognize, and my body could accept, as ‘normal.’ It took a few seconds, but I slowly unwrapped from myself and gravity, and spread across the floor soft as putty.
I laid there for a while, focusing on breathing, relaxation, and the newly acquired freedom of movement and flexibility in my body.
Free at last. Thank God almighty, I was free at last.