Of course, with more consideration and over time, it occurs to me that my body was entirely different 25 years ago. My connective tissue, perhaps genetically destined to become over tight and brittle, was supple then. Years of dehydration - and I used to be so dehydrated given that I'm that girl who feels anxious about having to pee 3 seconds after she leaves the house and so, would opt not to drink on the go - really fucked me up. The stress of raising a child with a personality that isn't anything like mine, of working very hard, of having a life and all of the things that go with it, of plain "advancing age" (and yes, I know I'm not old) - these things have changed my body irrevocably. Maybe if you're north of 50 and you're reading this, you're somewhat amused by my realization. I know it stands to reason that life and age (and these things are one to some extent) change one's body. However, I'm just coming to this concept viscerally now. This is the first time I've been this mature.
When I say that my body has changed irrevocably, I do not mean to imply that it's on a steep trajectory in a particular direction. That may also be the case, but I don't think that life or bodies work that way when one proceeds with consciousness. One's body is a meaningful reflection of a particular stage. This is so clear when observing an adolescent who embodies the confidence of strength, borne of youth and the biological optimism it entails.
Right now my body is a certain way. It moves in a certain way. It feels a certain way. When I stand up, initially it hurts everywhere. When I propel myself into motion, that pain dissipates quickly. In the same way my internal self doesn't know why, all things being equal, my midsection had changed shape, I don't know why the pain is there. Yeah, there are lots of books to explain everything. I've read them. I've applied the principles. One outcome of that application is that my migraines are almost gone (at least I choose to ascribe this improvement to my actions), which is no small feat. Another is that, as I seem to throw up randomly after eating certain things, I've stopped eating lots of foods.*
The thing that's beginning to take shape, mentally - specifically when I do yoga - is that I am engaging with the body I have, not the one I had. Not the one I will have. This body, unlike the one of early youth, talks back. It's nervy (literally). It speaks to me in ways that require me to listen, or to suffer. But when I listen, we engage - this body and mind, and I am that much more present in the world.
Maybe the reason that I used to move so effortlessly into forward bends (not that I really did, I often felt stuck, even if no one but a good teacher could see it) is because I was pushing. Maybe the reason I felt stuck was because I was pushing. I have rather flexible muscles from a lifetime of "conscious usage". I also have fascia that sticks like a bitch. So I can take it easy and move annoyingly slowly into my flexibility, or I can push it and feel pain for days. I'm going with slow for the win, even if it's so at odds with my nature that I encounter endless dissonance.
This post was actually inspired by this photoessay which apparently chronicles the last practice of BKS Iyengar at the age of 95. As I've written about, he died in August and leaves the kind of legacy that few will ever achieve. I have no idea whether these photos really do show Mr. Iyengar's last practice (that seems macabre for no good reason), or simply one of his final physical practices (I suspect his final practice was in shedding his coporeal form), but when I look at them, I am galvanized to continue. None of us knows what's coming next. We can only be our best selves in our best bodies and play at the margins of discomfort. It's that edge which illuminates the sweet spot - even as it seems very close to the bone.
*FYI, I don't take this lightly - or any of a variety of other crazy things going on with my body. I am seeing specialists to verify what's up, if anything, other than the stupidity of perimenopause. Honestly, this phase is bananas awful. I can totally understand how people go crazy in midlife. It's taking all of my cognizance to keep it together. And FYI, I truly don't want to be that girl who puts a bad spin on a stage that we will all go through eventually - if we're lucky. I'm a problem solver! But fuck, it's really horrible for some people and I recommend that you should try to