Friday, February 27, 2009

My Sunday column early

Hopefully, this will get a few edits before it publishes in the newspaper

Why yoga is like journalism

If you read last Sunday’s newspaper I hope you took the time to read Jeannie Brewer’s column about yoga and equanimity. Equanimity, as Jeannie explained, is eveness of mind, especially under stress.

In yoga it means, as I understand it, keeping your mind at ease even while you have contorted your body into a strange position.

My full disclosure is that I have been taking Jeannie’s class for the last 14 months.

Yoga, I have discovered is a lot like journalism.

Anyone can do yoga. Anyone that can read and write and has access to the Internet can be a journalist.

My first yoga class was Dec. 20, 2007. I was trying to lose weight and get in shape and Jeannie had talked me into trying out the class. I could try a couple of classes for free and she would let me borrow a mat. She had me at the word free.

I thought the first class was easy. I got a bit tired in the inverted V of the downward facing dog position, but other than that it seemed like nothing more than a pleasant stretch.

At the next class, Jeannie showed us how we could increase our heart rates by a simple breathing exercise. Maybe, I thought, there was* more to this than stretching.

During the second class, I pushed myself a little more. When she told us to push into the floor while in the warrior pose, I pushed hard into the floor. I started doing a thing I called “angry yoga.” I pushed like I was mad and stretched like I had to reach out and strangle someone.

I would leave each class on wobbly legs. I don’t think I was doing the yoga very well, but I was getting something out of the class.

It wasn’t until the summer that I started to really get it.

It was hot and we were about half-way through a class. With sweat rolling off my bald head we moved into the downward facing dog position and I let out a yelp.

It is usually pretty quiet in the class, but I couldn’t help announcing that instead of balancing on my toes, my heels were on the mat. Jeannie came over and adjusted me a little and reminded me to breath. I inhaled slowly and finally understood what she meant when she told us “relax into the pose.”

The downward facing dog had always been a position of stress for me - I used the stress to my advantage but I wasn’t getting everything out of the pose.

Now, I love the dog. It’s still hard and it still hurts when it stretches my legs and lower back, but now I let my body handle the stress while my mind dwells on something else, or nothing at all.

So, how is yoga like journalism?

Anyone can do it. It’s easy to be an angry journalist and push an agenda and get caught up in politics and jump when the scanner chatters and chase ambulances and fire trucks.

It isn’t until you can achieve an eveness of mind that you can really understand your community, really understand what is important and use your resources towards the most beneficial outcome.

You need to work hard and push and stretch and fight, but you need to do it with control and eveness or you waste a lot of energy.

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