culture & community relationships & love sisterhood travel

Love Actually (or: How I Got My 18-Year Old Thighs Back)

by JoAnna — February 13, 2012

During the throes of our tumultuous relationship, Yoga, I managed to find my 18-year old thighs (or more spiritually put “my 18-year old thighs found me”)…

Happy Valentine’s Day, Ashtanga yoga! Since we’re approaching our two and a half year anniversary and I wanted to write and express all the things I never managed to say. I don’t know how you did it but you had your way with me. You managed to convince me to meet up with you on a small island in the south of India for a whole 30 days. Who would have thought I’d agree and jump in head first with total abandon?


An early morning start with you. There’s love all around…

For the last few weeks I’ve embraced 06:00 wake up calls, break-of-dawn meditation sessions and sunrise practices. I’ve gorged on an all-vegetarian spread, crammed a course load of anatomy and nutrition into my head, and thrown in some spiritualism and Sanskrit for good measure. There’s no meat, no wine, and I’m asleep before most people finish their first aperitif.

*Sigh* It must be glaringly obvious to you that I am in love.

Thanks to you, Ashtanga, I’m a yogi in the making. Do you remember how I found you? How we first met? It took awhile us to cross paths because I had to first play the field. I hooked up with Hatha, then Power, then Sivananda. Then followed that up with Iyengar and a short stint with Kundalini. And don’t even remind me of my one-night stand with Bikram.

But it was only when I pushed my ridiculously stiff and unbendable body through 90 hellish minutes of one of your practices that everything changed. Your brand of yoga made sure I would never be the same again.

This addiction was real despite waking up morning after morning and feeling like I had been hit by a truck. I was hooked even when I howled as I twisted, turned and stretched: the pain annoyingly persistent in the best of times and tortuously transformative in the worst. After all you put me through I still crave for you, even when the occasional purplish blue bruise materialises in the strangest place. Those blossoming Rorschachs, which serve as pseudo-scarlet letters, marking me for the world to see.

Ashamedly, I latched onto you (or you onto me, I’m not sure anymore) like a lovesick fool. That first flush of infatuation made me long for you with unapologetic, athletic abandon. I revel in the post-shavasana glow you give. I dig the way you spin fibrous muscle, like a spider in its web, to make it lean, smooth and strong all at once. I’m impressed by your offering of a workout that doesn’t involve pounding pavement, spinning wheels or giving up chocolate. And I’m especially thrilled by your ability to melt my stiffness by simply gracing me with your presence. Sure, I played hard to get the first few months by meeting up only once or twice a week. But you doggedly pursued me and our early morning rendezvous’ increased once I realized there wasn’t a good enough reason not to get on the mat.

Just like flying…

Before long, Dear Ashtanga, you showed your true colours. You are crack-cocaine for the semi-enlightened soul.

However, before your ego swells too much let me backtrack and say it hasn’t been all rainbows, wagging tongues and throbbing red hearts. I moved past the starry-eyed honeymoon phase after nine months and was ready to kick you to the curb. Don’t you remember? It was when hadn’t progressed in my practice and was tired, cranky and demoralized by what you asked of me. Certain we didn’t want the same things I was also tired of your magnanimous and Zen-like all-knowingness rubbing up against my oh-so-human and flawed persona. Fed up with your bullshit, I swung to the far end of love’s pendulum to entertain a hatred for you that almost led to the end of our affair.

Thankfully, you gave me the space to walk away, which I did until I realized the only thing I wanted was get on my mat. And so I sheepishly showed up one day to find you there–all content, uncomplaining and forgiving. I rediscovered the multitude of things we have in common and my pseudo hatred moved back along the spectrum–beyond infatuation–to turn into a deeper kind of love. An intimacy that stuns by showing you how utterly transformational it can be. And a patience and gentle persuasion that turned me into a bright-eyed morning person. I have also altered what I eat (minus chocolate and wine, come on, we all have our vices), how I breathe, and the way I think about things.

You–body whipping, ass kicking, soul shaking–Ashtanga, have changed my life. (*Insert mock swoon here*)

I insist: dinner on the 14th is on me.

By the way, in conjunction with all the yoga-related love you’ve rained down, I wanted to express my gratitude for one last thing. During the throes of our tumultuous relationship I managed to find my 18-year old thighs (or more spiritually put “my 18-year old thighs found me”) and I have a sneaky feeling you’re behind this. Since you’re forever modest I doubt you’ll own up to it but for the record, you are aware that 18-year old thighs are equivalent to a platinum ring with 2 karats worth of heavy metals, don’t you? Killer thighs trumps platinum or flowers any day and, because of that, I dare anyone to tell me that what we have isn’t true love.

Whatever. To hell what anyone thinks. Yours has been most thoughtful and original Valentine gift. Ever.

Eternally yours, JoAnna

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