Shot by Erika Giraud
As much as I enjoy the physical exertion and effort of weight training, I've discovered I have a particular affinity for yoga. This is not to say I'm good at it, but in the time I've begun to practice, I've gained a deep appreciation for the different types of focus each requires. Lifting heavy objects is a slow and steady progression to increase, while I find yoga is indispensable in discovering and addressing areas of stress and tension with a commitment to accepting them and working within them. Both are intense but in wholly different ways.
I wrote some time ago about my particular struggles with gentleness and how my journey with it has been... complicated. The intensity of getting to where I am is often a metal-on-metal experience. I find it has often been a grating, jarring experience where progress at times is only made through sheer force of will. I find myself less proud of this the more I consider it and most importantly the results.
Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the lessons in toughness and the perseverance it has taught me. But as I'm realizing with my yoga practice, I'm realizing there is another way to progress to being what you want to be that doesn't have to be so severe. I'm realizing I've fallen into a pattern of needing my milestones to be marked by suffering and pain.
In a society marked by its violent reinforcement of sexism and racism daily, this context is often celebrated and even encouraged. The path to progress is always one based on blood, sweat, and fears. Always gotta be on the hustle even if your body is screaming it's about to break. Ha, the sign your body is about to give out is supposed to be a sign you're "working hard".
On a macro level, we see the constant and devastatingresults of consistently existing in a state of distress and on the edge of collapse. It is clear that we as people are simply not meant to live this way.
But on a more personal level, I just don't want to be that way. I want to embrace the complexity of being a person that gives space to explore the human condition in a way that is conducive to becoming whole rather than being able to sustain jumping from crisis to crisis. I don't think the careful management of decline while ignoring the reasons for it is something to be celebrated. Growth is always an intense process but it is myopic to believe it always has to be so brutal.
Ha, I realize it can be taboo for a man, a Black one especially to openly express their desire to be gentle and nurturing. Growing up how I grew up, that's a role that a man is just not supposed to occupy. I however don't want to be a man, a person simply known for their ability to navigate bare-knuckle situations. I want my community to know, that yes while I do have an edge that can be deployed when appropriate, I can also be gentle, loving, empathetic, and understanding. I can be a person who is unafraid and unashamed of showing the areas of my personality that exist outside of the bigoted narratives we are taught. I am capable of expressing the meaningful parts of myself in a myriad of ways and they are all authentic.
Now do I know how to get there? Ha, no, not at all. But I didn't know how I do crow pose when I first began my yoga practice either. And I didn't get there by being harsh and unforgiving as I learned how.
(Yes, I'm very proud of my crow.)