Anyone who knows me probably wishes that yoga had remained in India or that I would go into savasana (corpse pose) and stay there. For I am a yoga evangelist. Plug your ears, and cover your eyes. I am about to embark on a series of occasional posts that will tell you more than you want to know.
I have never been at ease in my body. Big for my age (5 ft. 10 by the time I was 13, with size 10 feet), I had the strength and physique but not the grace of a competitive swimmer (though I splashed about for my country-club team in my tweens and teens). Wearing clothes that were too large for me, I lumbered through the halls of my high school hunching my shoulders to obscure the sheer mass of my outsize body. I felt like a giant in a kindergarten. Oh, sure, people occasionally said stupid things like, You should be a model. But they weren't serious. They were being polite about my freakish, obscene size. I was a wannabe Shrinky Dink, always trying to make myself smaller. (Somewhere I may still have the newspaper article I clipped about an Australian woman who had six inches removed from her shinbones—I wanted the name of her surgeon for future reference.)
I don't remember precisely when I became a yoga convert. I took a class or two in college, joined a tiny yoga co-operative (there were three of us, total, who met weekly for about three months) in San Francisco in the early 1970s, and began to take class more regularly when I moved to New York and joined a gym in the late '70s. It was a gradual thing, like being best friends with a guy and then having it dawn on you that you're in love with him.
What made me realize I was in love with yoga was the comfort it gave me to be myself. Yoga encourages you not to contort your body into an idealized size or shape (the whole pretzel stereotype is a willful misunderstanding) but to fully inhabit the physique you have, to get bigger rather than smaller. What a relief, after a lifetime of compression to finally stretch out! I felt as light as a gummed-up collapsed balloon being inflated full.
As graceless as I am (still!), I could never dance to the rhythm of music, but in yoga, movements are calibrated to the slower beat of the breath, and I can do it! And even if I can't, it doesn't matter—I'm in the process.
And in yoga, the process—the path, not the destination—is all that matters.