Jim Duffy: Yoga makes me feel the way I want to be on my deathbed
It is so easy to live your life in the future. Always thinking about what is ahead. Always planning and organising. Whether it’s making appointments for this or that or worrying about things that have not yet happened, we frequently live our lives in a future state. The problem with this is that we lose out on what is going on around us now. We fail to get to grips with our own the emotions and thoughts as we experience them.
Hours can go past and we have lost them forever as we live for tomorrow, next week or next year in our heads. I am hugely guilty of this.
So, I decided to do something about it. Something radical. I decided to try yoga.
For many of us, the thought of yoga turns our stomachs. It’s all just flower power and ringing bells, while sitting in a knee-crushing pose with our eyes closed humming “Ommmm”. Or even worse, it is standing on one leg with another held backwards with our torso leaning forwards and our hands out like wings. In short, a pose only a gymnast could do.
And finally, all the pictures of yoga that we see are of svelte, beautiful people with blemish-free skin, ice-white teeth and perfect bone structure. Gwyneth Paltrow has a lot to answer for. But forget all that clap-trap and myth. Yoga is far from this mystical “marketeered” picture and a lot more like you and me – ordinary people with muffin tops and bingo wings. Not to mention the odd varicose vein and beer belly. And not a lotus pose in sight.
I rocked up for my first “simple” yoga experience a little apprehensively. I had tried Bikram yoga in Glasgow a few years back. It was really good, but I started to find the poses a bit too stressful and my competitive spirit started to shine through as I wanted to get better and better at holding the poses. And this is not what yoga is all about.
I said hello to the other five or six folks that were there and I stood over a mat. Then the teacher sat us down and we started. That was five weeks ago. And I have been practising my yoga twice a week at class in that time. So, has it helped me stop living in the future and grounded me any? Yes and no.
Tuning the mind, the body and the spirit into each other is not easy. But when it happens it feels great. Simply looking ahead, while sitting cross-legged and breathing in gently is just the start of it. Monitoring the breath as it fills my lungs, then holding it briefly, gives me that power and control over my breathing again. I am taking charge of what is coming into my bloodstream. Then exhaling and focusing on how I feel brings me closer and more in touch with me.
Feeling what is going on in my body as I do this grounds me in the moment. My right knee is a little sore. My right hip and groin are not quite right and have been bothering me for years now. My back feels good and my bowels feel good. And all this is taking place more consciously then ever before. This is what yoga is doing for me.
As each class progresses, we execute some easy poses that involve using a cushion to sit on and a wall to help with purchase to aid in stretching out our backs. We rest in positions like the “pose of the child” to bring us back into steady breathing after gently stressing our bodies in a stretch. And all the time I’m focusing on what each hand is doing, how my toes are gripping the mat and how strong I can make my knees as I pull in all the muscles around them.
At no time am I thinking about booking dinner next week or the currency exchange rate after Brexit. It is all about gearing my muscles, my back, my pelvis and my core into my mind and my breathing.
And, before anyone can say “Shazam”, an hour has passed and we are lying in the final rest position. In this moment, having stretched and worked my body at a pace that suits me, I am 100 per cent relaxed. It is a funny feeling.
It’s not like post-coital emotion. It’s not like warming down after a 10K run. No, it is very different. It feels atavistic and natural. It feels like I would want to feel on the hour of my death bed. Very calm. Very confident. Just me and my being ... my humanity.
And that is yoga for me. Can I say that it will be the same for you? No idea. I don’t even know how it feels for the regular yogis that come to class each week. But, something is working for them.
Certainly, we can all stretch that bit further and are becoming more flexible and pliable as we go into basic poses. I get to tease out those fast-twitch muscles that I use playing other sports. I also get my back strengthened to boot. But, it is the mindfulness of that 60 minutes that fuels me for the days that follow.
My visits to the yoga mat are helping my psychology and physiology. It’s not something I get from 60 minutes of aerobics. Yoga is slowing me down a bit.
It is making me think about me in a different way. I feel more positive and content.
So forget worrying about next week or thinking about how amazing Holly Willoughby looks and just spend an hour doing some yoga - for you. Ommmmmmmm...