These days I do yoga first thing in the morning, before I can think up an excuse not to. Morning yoga is a new thing for me. To say I am not a morning person is an understatement; morning to me is an insult, an offense, a slap in the face. So when I arrive on my mat, I’m not at my best. Frankly, I’m at my worst. Mussed hair; eyes half-shut in a suspicious, cranky squint; usually I have some B.O. going on. My standards for my practice are very low; I feel lucky I can just stand there without tipping over.
This morning I arrived at yoga a little late; as I settled myself on my mat, my teacher read from Hafiz, which was probably nice though I couldn’t really follow what she was saying because IT WAS THE MORNING. When she was done reading, we came to front of our mats and I lifted my arms lazily in my first Surya Namaskara A, which I performed with great, even spectacular, sloppiness. We moved silently for the first fifteen minutes of class, as is traditional in Ashtanga, each finding our way through the poses. Poses like a thicket, a maze, an ocean of waves, a jungle, a meditation. We were together in the room, but each alone in our own practice. When class ended, I had an odd sense of being both more solitary and more connected. I drove home, showered, ate, and sat down at my desk to write, as I do every day.
How does my yoga practice affect my writing life? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest; it happens in a mysterious manner. It’s sort of like electricity, or gravity: I know it works, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how. It has to do with accepting imperfection, and with learning to be alone and connected at the same time. It has to do with showing up, over and over, no matter how I look or feel (or smell). It has to do with removing excuses. What’s left behind when you take away the excuses? Only commitment, only resolve, only the occasional lift of joy that is the strange and happy by-product of dedication.
Posted by: Claire Dederer
Claire Dederer‘s bestselling memoir Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses chronicles motherhood and marriage structured around her love affair with yoga.. Claire’s essays, criticism, and reporting have appeared inVogue, The New York Times, Slate, Yoga Journal, Real Simple, and The Nation. She lives on an island near Seattle and is working on her next memoir. She occasionally teaches Yoga & Memoir workshops at 8 Limbs with one of her students, Anne Phyfe Palmer.