I recently had a rather startling realization that my public persona is very much defined by yoga. Our public life is now almost exclusively on social media, and around 80% of my posts on social media is about yoga with photos of me doing yoga.
And it is funny because none of the conventional yoga narratives seem to suit the relationship I have with yoga. I dont claim that yoga is both a physical and spiritual exercise (for me at least). I dont necessarily feel more at peace or connected with myself after doing yoga. It is not even a social exercise any longer, because it has been more than two years since i stepped into a yoga class (or yoga studio, to use the new term which has even caught up in small town India), and for me yoga is largely a family exercise.
In fact I came into, and continued to practice yoga for probably all the conventionally wrong reasons. But here I am, with over five years of experience, so something must have worked for me.
To start with, I started practicing yoga based on the advice of a gynaecologist, who suggested that if I were trying to get pregnant yoga was a good way, since it generally keeps you relaxed and fit. I dont know why I latched on to this particular advice, since there were many other suggestions she gave which I ignored. A yoga class was happening very close to home, at times which were convenient for me (I never could stand early morning classes, so these evening classes suited me). So I signed on.
I know what I should have been doing was to focus on yoga and not worry about pregnancy. But that is exactly what I didnt do. I would constantly google about pregnancy related yoga, and try to learn and perfect all the poses which were supposed to aid in pregnancy. Yoga was simply a means to an end and I rather felt very self righteous that rather than go for any medical treatments, I was doing yoga to aid pregnancy.
This continued for many months. I did not invest in yoga for myself, but my body seemed to take to it very well. I used to slouch very obviously, and even though my posture now is not perfect, the slouch is much less pronounced (one friend remarked that I seemed to have grown taller). I felt good, even looked good.
I have never been a physically active person. As a child, I was pathetic at all games, and somewhere along the line I cultivated a self image that I never could not anything physically challenging. As an adult, I had had some forays into aerobics, hip hop dance and even swimming, but none of them lasted. Yoga seemed to be the only physical activity at which I was good. Yes, I know in yoga you are never good or bad, you just keep doing whatever your body permits you to do. But hey, we all have egos, and whenever my teacher praised a certain asana of mine or when I pulled off an asana, which other students could only gape at I preened like a peacock. Finally I was able to come out of the self image of being limited physically. Yes, I could be clumsy when it comes to certain activities, but hey, there were many at which I excelled as well.
This continued for a couple of years. I finally started enjoying yoga for itself and at one point even started wondering if I would miss yoga when I finally became pregnant and had a child. That was not to be, since we ended up having an alternate route to parenthood. Our daughter came into our lives at about a week’s notice, a wilful, independent 8 month old whom we adopted.
The adoption threw me off yoga for about a month. I think as a major life event, it threw me off life for almost a year. I had to suddenly cope with the needs of a totally different person, focus on her full time and in the initial days, I didnt have a moment for myself. Within a month, I had to return to yoga, and in that period, perhaps for the first time, I was doing yoga as it was meant to be. It gave me a space for myself, made me feel a bit relaxed and offered a temporary break from the hundred and one demands of motherhood which were suddenly on my head.
I continued to have anxieties and doubts about motherhood for a long time, even after I cracked the routine tasks associated with it. I was deeply insecure, kept wondering if my daughter would bond with me, and more importantly find me fun. To myself, I presented a dreary serious picture, hardly playing, hardly watching TV, hardly having fun. Why would a child ever like my presence, specially when I was also the stern disciplinarian in her life.
And then the answer came to me, and yes, once again it was yoga. Yoga was the one unique physical activity I could do which she could enjoy. Right from the beginning, when my yoga practice meant I could comfortably wriggle under tables and chairs and be with her and play with her, onto giving her rides on extraordinarily fit back, onto her being curious about the asana, looking at it from different perspectives, and trying to figure out their names (and yoga can be fun that way, crow asana, camel asana, lion asana, a veritable zoo of asanas), I was finally able to offer her something unique, something which we both could share.
My daughter is now 4, and we now have some brief daily yoga sessions, where she tries to match me. I like it that I am her role model in this one activity, and I like it that it is one activity we have taken to doing regularly as a family. Not because it is healthy (it certainly is), not because it is a symbol of glorious Indian civilization (it probably is, but I am not too concerned about it), but because it is a lot of Fun.