The MacIsaac household could be a turbulent one.
Especially at Christmas.
We would compare piles of presents next to the Christmas tree - yes, next to ... some years were more affluent than others and the piles would not fit under the branches.
Who got more?
Who could love the dog more?
Who could read a book the fastest?
Who could get better grades?
I always let the boys win that one. Yes, let. Hi, Kevin.
The competitive spirit was strong in our household. We were all enrolled in sports -- track and field, softball, soccer, hockey for the boys, figure skating for me ...
We learned achievement was important. We learned to work hard. We learned to compete and we learned to always want to be better ... and better than you.
Yoga and downward dog fly in the face of my alpha dogness.
Yoga is about balance ... balance between body, mind and spirit. It is a philosophy of instruction and learning, of insight into the spiritual, mental and physical ... a true integration of those three planes of existence.
Is there balance in winning? Only if there's a loser, right? But who can lose in yoga? The practice is meant to relax, to refresh, to energize.
And after reading up on it, I knew I had to use yoga to balance myself ... but not against others.
I did my first class in Kamloops about a decade ago. We were 15 women in cramped quarters ... bending, flexing and flowing. My mind was focused on making sure I bent further than the next gal, even if my muscles were unwilling.
Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind.
A few years later, I moved to Calgary and had a satellite dish in my house. We had the channel One: Mind, Body, Spirit. Every morning, Yoga Zone had a half-hour show of practice, dedicated to the beginner or intermediate inductee.
I taped it. Yes, taped it. We didn't have PVRs then, at least not to my knowledge. I taped it and taped it and taped it, until I had two full VHS tapes.
I wore those tapes thin, using the yoga as my fitness base because I couldn't afford a gym membership. I was miserable in my heart, though, freshly dumped by a boyfriend who replaced me quickly and easily and mired in a job that wasn't as magical as I imagined it to be.
I never found my balance.
I got frustrated and gave it up, going back to throwing the iron around gym the second I could manage it in my budget.
Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.
Times have changed.
I have less stressors in my life -- from salary to job expectations and more.
I have advanced to the high-tech world of DVDs (no, still no PVR) - bought and made - and I have learned to quiet my mind in preparation for my yoga sessions.
I have learned to peacefully move into the yoga poses instead of forcing my way into them. I have learned to use my breathing to extend into the pose further.
I don't consider myself anywhere beyond beginner yet. While I can get my heels flat to the floor in downward dog, I don't know what progresses a person past the levels to intermediate or advanced.
And I'm strangely OK with that.
I've come a long way, I think, from the girl who wanted to get her figure skating levels in record time so she could turn competitive.
(She didn't but that didn't stop her from wanting it.)
It turns out there's application in real life. When it starts to feel like life is spinning a bit out of control, I roll out my yoga mat, throw in a DVD and restore some calmness, not only in my body but also in my mind.
Beyond the yoga mat, I can remember to practise my breathing when life is feeling a bit heavy. I can remember to close my eyes and turn myself inward for a little thought to calm my mind and approach some situations a little more carefully than I did before.
Yoga is the fountain of youth. You're only as young as your spine is flexible.
-- Bob Harper
I just finished 40 minutes of yoga for a strong and healthy back.
I feel better.
And I will sleep.