The other day I was talking with a friend about yoga. More specifically, we were talking about how, over time, positions you dread can turn into something you crave.
I started practicing yoga when we lived in New York and it was an immediate love affair. The kind that made me sneak out of my office at lunchtime and return with a yoga zen smile and a general air of calm that befuddled my coworkers.
All through my pregnancies with Child #1 and #2, yoga was the only thing that kept me sane.
I know this because it was my husband's favorite thing to suggest in the middle of crying jags, irrational demands and feeding frenzies. "Honey, maybe a little yoga will make you feel better. You take all the time you need."
Yoga is one of those things you can do halfway or you can push yourself hard. As soon as I figured out how to push myself, which isn't as easy as it sounds, that's what I started doing. Which brings me back to the conversation I had with my friend.
Is the desire to twist your body into positions that make you breathe like you're giving birth to a ten pound baby masochistic?
Because I'm a writer first and a yoga lover second, the question seemed just as apt, if not more, for the practice of writing.
Writing is full of painful positions. Sometimes the pain comes from getting words out onto paper. Lately, for me the pain has been in the editing. First edit, second edit, third edit, fourth. And on some days the pain comes from reading what I've written. Seriously, who wrote this crap? Oh, right, I did.
Writers shun human contact. We lock ourselves in rooms or coffee shops or attics or basements and communicate with our fingers. It's not a natural state. Or maybe it is. But it's certaintly not a painfree state. What kind of person prefers the written word to the spoken one? What kind of person delves into their most painful memories on a regular basis in order to make sure words on a page feel authentic?
And when we're all done, when we've twisted, slaved, sweated blood and tears, we know that, most likely, our work will not be met with a roaring stadium of fans anxious to congratulate us on our amazing feat.
If we're lucky, it will be met with the same polite smattering of applause that my yoga teacher had after the phenomonal class he taught on Monday night.
"I feel like Lady GaGa," he said.
I giggled because his statement underscored a central truth about both yoga and writing.
They're a practice. Often a difficult one but you don't do it for the applause. You do it for the feeling you are pushing your words or your body into unchartered territory. Maybe writers and yoginis are also practioners of masochism. I'm not sure. All I know is, when done well, both things can be deeply uncomfortable and also have the capacity to produce endless amounts of joy.