Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Contra Yogini

Sinking into my couch, I take a drink of my Cruzan Rum and a drag off of my cigarette then exhale deeply. Satisfied. "Ah, relaxation," I think to myself just before sheepishly remembering the yoga practice I had only completed twenty minutes prior. True, during points tonight, I felt my practice begin to relax me, but no approaching subconscious thoughts alluded to that feeling of relaxation--not as strongly as the buzz from the smoking and the drinking did.

This inconsistency marks a commonality in my life and I can't help but compare this instance to a similar instance from my past. Namely, when I became a strict vegetarian at age thirteen. In response to my radical diet, my mother would regularly comment ruefully, "Jen, what is the point of your healthy eating, when you habitually smoke? Think of what you are doing to your young lungs...." What could I tell her? It isn't about that, Mom. She never understood that, for me, the want for a healthy mind and spirit was not born of the same thing as the want of a healthy body. Nor does striving for spiritual fulfillment necessarily result in a completely addiction-free existence.

I struggle with my addictions, which leads to a struggle with my body. I am addicted to food (boy, am I addicted to food!); I am addicted to cigarettes (and have been for more years than I'd like to count); I am addicted to significant mind altering substances (but I often settle for alcohol or the like). These addictions do nothing but inhibit my yoga practice and my connection to my body. I declare loudly, "BUT I am addicted to yoga, too!" As if that mediates all of my other addictions. As if yoga is a life raft that will float me away from my natural predilections. Mom was right about my lungs, but she never even seemed to consider the effect that these substances were having on my brain.

It is my understanding that your frontal lobe is not fully developed until sometime in your early to mid twenties. What must those substances that I introduced into my body from a young age (McDonald's, weed, alcohol, cigarettes, etc., etc.) have done to my poor young mind? Had I never introduced them into my system, would my brain function better today? Would I be able to read better? Study more effectively? Retain and process more information? Maybe, I would have become the psychologist that I always dreamed of being?

When I stop to contemplate the issue more thoroughly I know that yoga can improve my brain function. I understand that meditation alters the brain, increases plasticity, releases healthy neurotransmitters, and stimulates dormant thought centers (among many other things). I know that yoga can help me to connect with my body. I just need to commit myself to my practice, the same way I commit myself to buying cigarettes at the end of a long work day. I need to commit myself to myself, really. I need to become something other than a contra yogini and a contradiction in terms.

Om shanti.