Saturday, September 17, 2011

Namaste, bitches!




I recently joined the YMCA in my 'hood and after a few trial of "low impact" aerobics classes, I realized I was too out of shape, too fat, too old, and too uncoordinated to keep up with the Mitzys, Bitsys, Boopsies, and Chickies, in those "look at me I'm so cute in my workout pants dancing to Britney" classes.  So, on a whim, I decided to check out Yoga, because I had heard that it was perfect for people who needed to train their bodies back into excercise and because it only had one star next to them in the brochure, indicating that I wasn't going to have my ass kicked in 2 minutes.

Now for those of you who know be, either in the "real world" or the "twitterverse", know that I can be easily labeled as a "Cranky Atheist", "Unforgiving Skeptic" or plain ol' "Bitch".  When it comes to magic, superstition, being "one with mother earth", healing chakras, or "the healing power" of basically anything, I will give you the biggest eye roll this side of the solar system.  To put it plainly, I live in the real world.  I don't have a "spirit" or a "soul".  My "chi" does not need to be centered and my "aura" is basically telling you to shut the fuck up. In other words, "Spirituality" does not apply to me in any way shape or form.  I'm the Ebenezer Scrooge of Spirituality, except instead of saying, "bah humbug" I'm usually just calling bullshit on you and accusing you of being a hippie who smoked too much pot.

Suffice it to say, I was a bit apprehensive about going to my first yoga class, but I tried to "open my mind" (and not laugh) and in I went.  That was three weeks ago and since then, I have upped my yoga-ness to 3 times a week (with Pilates thrown in between).  I have even purchased my very own yoga mat, complete with peace dove, bamboo, and heart decoration on it.  And it's NOT BLACK.  It's purple.  My body is not thinner, but I have lost inches everywhere and I am night and day on how I move.  And, if I can even say this without revoking my "Cranky Atheist" card....

I feel "connected" to my "spirit" when I am doing the practice. 

Between the breathing and the names of each pose, it's hard not to feel the thousands of years of  history in these ancient motions.  It's hard not to secretly be proud of yourself as you do a complete backbend with your hands behind your head FLAT on the mat.  It's hard not to channel the strength of the Buddha while balancing in a perfect "tree" position.  It's amazing to go from Child's Pose, to Plank, to Downward Dog and feel the sweat dripping off my face as my arms start to shake from exhaustion.  At the end of the practice, my abs are screaming, my arms are noodles, and my legs feel like jello.  But I am so proud of myself that as we end the practice in the Savasana (Corpse Pose), I really do allow the pose to affect me and .....dare I say it.....my spirit.

So what the hell is happening here?  Is this "Cranky Atheist" becoming "Spiritual"?  Do I need to check "Buddhist" on forms now when asking me about my religion, instead of the big black, upper case NONE/ATHEIST that I normally scrawl?  Could it be that in "opening up" my body during yoga classes, I'm kind of opening up to the idea that maybe I am connected to this pale blue dot that's spinning aimlessly in space?

Now before any of my more religious readers start planning a "Come to Jesus" party for me, let me tell you that this in no way makes me believe in a higher power or god or creator or anything superstitious.  If anything, Yoga has enhanced my belief that human beings are amazing products of evolution and that we are simply connected to our planet in such a way that we are connected to eachother.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson, my astrophysicist, atheist, secret boyfriend, said it best when he said, "We are all connected; To each other, biologically To the earth, chemically To the rest of the universe atomically."

Who knew that I would have a "spiritual" experience?  In a Yoga class.  At the local Y.

So what am I if I am not the "Cranky Atheist"? Can I be a Buddhist Atheist? If atheism is the absence of belief in gods, then many Buddhists are, indeed, atheists. Buddhism is not about either believing or not believing in a god or gods. Rather, the historical Buddha taught that believing in gods was not useful for those seeking to realize enlightenment. I guess then that I am becoming enlightened. Not to a higher power, but rather the power that is within me to push myself and feel better about myself. 

So, Namaste, bitches!  With a side of "Ohm" as well.

5 comments:

J-M said...

I have always maintained that your can have a spiritual life without organized religion. Anytime you out intent and love or joy into whatever you're doing, it's spiritual. Parenting is spiritual. Reading is spiritual. Physical movement is spirirtual. So, I'll take your namaste' and wish you the same.

Andy said...

My wife does yoga and she is an atheist. She would also say she is spritual. Me? The word has too many negative connotations for me to use. However, trying to describe that psychological/brain state (caused by those nifty endorphins)is difficult.

Kat said...

There are an infinite number of ways to be spiritual, and any atheist who says spirituality automatically means believing in supernatural beings is as dogmatic and ignorant as any fundamentalist believer. As a Naturalistic, or "non-literalist" Pagan, I catch all kinds of crap from the atheist community online for being a woo-filled fruitcake, and trust me, you will too if you share this yoga story in the wrong places. You dared to find some personal meaning and connection to life and existence in an activity, and many atheists will hate you for it, and might even consider you a traitor or "part of the problem."

But, fuck'em. Spirituality does not have to mean that you ignore or deny scientific reality. In fact, spirituality can be fed and sustained by empirical knowledge and reason. It is your personal mindset that makes anything spiritual. To me, spirituality is the feeling of joy at realizing how vast and mysterious existence really is, and catching some small glimpse of our place in it. If yoga, with it's focus on mind-body connection through movement, is a device that allows that to happen for you, then keep kicking ass at it!

Sherrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sherrie said...

I wish I could just edit and not delete. Sigh.

Yoga can be an awesome workout and help relive stress. The spiritual aspect of it is just relaxation as far as I'm concerned.

And namaste' right back at ya.