Thursday, January 10, 2013

meet your own gaze

It's 105 degrees Fahrenheit in here; 40% humidity. There are thirty other people in this room, the mirrored walls duplicating and reduplicating us into a sweat-drenched infinity. So many bodies; so much flesh, stretched over muscle, stretched over bone, stretched over our respective mats.

When we're in the room, we're decorated anatomy. We're parts, pushing and pulling and twisting. We're soaking wet. We're miserable, and we're elevated, and we're united in that straddle.

To my left, a woman's tangle of course, black hair hangs in thick vines over the razor intensity of her gaze. Her thigh levitates over her mat like a promontory of wet volcanic rock, the baby-pink sole of her foot standing in stark contrast against its inky hardness. Another woman ventures lazily into the posture, limbs noodly and noncommittal, curls piled atop her head in a winsome, if childish, knot.  She inspects her own lissome form with eyes as green and innocuous as a toy dinosaur. She finds nothing wanting. A middle-aged man, muscles trained into magazine-cover definition, struggles valiantly against the tissues he has so painstakingly wrought. His bleached teeth grab his bottom lip as he yanks wholeheartedly on one foot. His neighbor, a twenty-something fella with twinkling eyes that sweep the room at regular intervals, is just as strong but much more pliable; a slight smile barely nudges the corner of his plush auburn beard as he placidly hefts his own body through the posture. The mountainous fake breasts of the woman behind him quiver unnervingly with her labored breathing, her spindly Asian hips seeming unequal to the task of supporting both her top and bottom halves. Next to me, a spill of thick blonde hair falls over a chiseled, sunkissed shoulder. One bead of sweat emerges from her hairline and traces down the perfect center of her face, bisecting her button nose and the china-doll bow of her lips before her tongue darts out to catch it.

Then there's me, meeting my own gaze in the mirror, flushed strawberry and standing in a salty waterfall of my own making. 

There I am.

The parts of me I like and the parts of me I hate and the flint of my determination to push through ONE MORE SECOND and my aching desire to simply lie down and breathe and my galloping mind and my stone-faced quietude and absolutely everything about me, materializing in the mirror as glossy, slick body parts, stacked carefully in alignment, moving almost imperceptibly with the tide of my breath. I am not perfect, but I am here, and I am working to the very edge of my edge.

The idiosyncratic practice of Bikram yoga, among but somehow above all its other benefits, teaches you to see yourself.

It's one of the most important lessons yoga has to teach.

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