Michael Mordarski: On yoga and Easter

Sunday, April 16, 2017 - 12:49pm

My lack of flexibility, intense personality and acute alcoholism all contribute to my consistently pathetic performance in the yoga classes I have been taking. Every other day my body is subjected to a constant torment as I scream internally through the pretzel-like poses my all-too-calm instructor asks me to perform.

Surrounded by the healthy, flexible, barefoot individuals all breathing rhythmically to the tranquil nature sounds that substitute music, I often find myself wondering what in the name of good god did I do to my myself. I feel individual tendons being ripped apart to the soundtrack of wind chimes blowing in the Pacific Northwest.

For years I have subjected my body to athletic and aerobic punishments with no thought about the later ramifications. I never stretched. I lifted too many weights. I ran too many miles in a pair of shoes from President Obama’s first term. So, at the young and pathetic age of 21, I was already paying this minor physical price. Yet yoga, even as terrible as I am at it, has already made me feel somewhat better, more flexible and recharged when I start my day.

If only there were a way we could stretch and heal the mind, the same way we do with our bodies.

I am reminded every year with the arrival of Easter of my annual “sit-alone-in-church-pew-and-think-about-yourself” tradition. As a pseudo-Catholic, I venture home on this holiday to join my family for the most holy and central day of my religion. During this brief time, I force myself into a moment of pure mental reflection — and recently, I have not been content with what I find.

For here at this university, and in life in general, I often allow for the darker shades of my psyche to wage war upon the rational and calm elements of my mind. Jealousy, insecurity and envy can often consume me as I blindly and abusively pursue temporary goals in the hope of satisfying desires. Essentially, I don’t stretch, I do too much and, worse, I often lock myself away with these thoughts, never moving as I act as the audience to the ongoing war inside my mind between pessimism and optimism.

And I submit myself to this pathetic mental torment through multiple methods. I am jealous over the seemingly incredible lives of specific people, with their overbooked social scene and the constant attention directed toward them. I see what others have and then I just want. And these are all common emotions felt among every human being, yet I will amplify the severity of such desires with senseless quick fixes with lack of any true character building. I never take the time to understand my desires, I simply throw artificial things at them hoping they’ll work.  

Life cannot be sustained through knee-jerk satisfactions. Instead of actual character building and understanding one's identity, I have lived before with makeshift qualities and traits pretending to be happy for a night. And yet each time that fails, I seem to never understand the lesson. Many times I have woken up unsatisfied with my life and have yet again submitted myself to blending into the anonymous crowd of the “haves” instead of the “have nots,” and I pretended that with the next bar, the next drink, the next hook up, I’ll satisfy that desire. I’ll feel complete.

These are the knee-jerk mental reactions to our overall human desires. Life is distracting with money, sex and others’ perceived happiness, so it is understandable that we jump into these temporary artificial solutions to experience some capacity of joy.

With yoga, one lesson I have come to understand is that actually engaging in the stretches properly, one must totally relax into a state that is uniquely natural, free from outside distractions and worldly desires.

Though I am actually horrible at the physical aspects of yoga, I have succeeded in applying the mental aspects to my life in some respects. The time away from the seemingly endless social competition clears my head. The outside distractions, the artificiality, the temporary solutions are removed for a clearer perspective of what I want to get from life.

Life cannot be sustained on just temporary knee-jerk reactions to real goals in life. Cheap movements for easy, temporary results — not results that matter and last. Popularity, alcohol, drugs — nothing like this will sustain a person forever.

Yoga is hard.

Michael Mordarski can be reached at mmordars@umich.edu