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What's Yoga Got to Do With It? by Nancy Coleman

When I was seven years old, I walked the sixteen city blocks to my piano teacher’s house to tell her I was quitting my lessons. She was a kind woman and I actually didn’t mind the lessons. It was the practicing I couldn’t stand. But somehow, for most of my adult life I have been practicing at practicing. I practice my guitar. I practice becoming a writer. While other adults work at their jobs, mine is called a practice. Therapists joke that we’re hoping one day, if we practice earnestly and well, we’ll get it right.


And I practice yoga.


Every day last week in a yoga teacher immersion, I woke at five, meditated, walked unimaginably slowly on a pebbly ocean beach, and bowed over and over again toward the sun. I never got it right. I couldn’t stand on one leg, or I couldn’t hold the asana “steadily and comfortably”, or I just couldn’t fold myself into that pretzel shape at all. I loved it.


For many years, yoga has been there for me when I’ve needed it, when things were falling apart, when the to-dos and needs-attentions were more than my memory or my lists could hold, when I didn’t know what else to do. But like the way a lot of us treat prayer or eating healthy food, it was an on-again off-again thing for me, a flirtation, a fling. I did it until I felt better, and then I went back to my “real” life.


And then I wrote a book. And re-wrote it. And re-wrote, several more times. I came to the desk and I sat with what was there until something happened. Over time, with at least as many interruptions as there were days of excitement and flow, something did happen. And as I practiced writing, as I grew in my ability to stay, to breathe, to pay attention to how I really am, the yoga mat also seemed to grow in me to the size of a room, a house, a world.


Writing and yoga meet here, in the moment when we stand still and take notice. We move the pen or the body in time with breath, in time with whatever that is that moves deeply within us, in tune with what is most authentic, most unclouded. We are drawn as we move, as we write, toward the True Self, that polished mirror.


I finished the book. I became a yoga teacher. And here’s what I learned: It’s not that I got it right that matters, it’s that I did it. I practiced.


It’s as simple, and as beautiful as that, really.