After the class gratefully exited locust the other night, the teacher chastised us all for kerploping our four limbs to the ground. Lower them slowly instead, she said. Make the motion weight-bearing. Don’t give in to gravity. Instead of taking that moment to be lazy, to let your legs and arms drop fruitlessly, exert muscle against gravity, lower them slowly, like barbells, using the opportunity given by gravity to grow strong.
“Don’t give in to gravity,” is a strategy that maxs out your postures. In triangle, for example, holding the torso aloft, so that the spine is a straight diagonal with the back leg, is far harder work than letting it curl down. Half the point of balancing stick is to resist the torso’s inclination to succumb to gravity and topple to the floor. Indeed every one-legged posture doubles the exertion against gravity, and the point is to bear that doubled weight and not give in.
Along with conquering gravity with muscular force, yoga also conquers gravity by toning the body, enabling it to resist gravity’s downward drag. After age 40, the spine shrinks half an inch per decade. But this is not biology, not inevitable. It is caused by gravity compounded by laziness. Stretch the spine with yoga—and Bikram yoga focusses on the spine—and gravity will literally not lower you. (And if you do headstands, those spongy discs in your spine get a chance to decompress and plump up, keeping your height.) And every teacher or blogger who extols yoga as the fountain of youth mentions the sag it reverses, how it prevents the drooping and pebbling that gravity inflicts on thighs and arms.
If yogis don’t give in to gravity in our postures, and our bodies don’t give in to gravity because of years we commit to our practices, yogis also don’t give in to gravity in our hearts and spirits. As our teachers advice us over and over, “don’t let anyone steal your peace.”
The choice to emotionally or psychologically not crumble or rage at the grave is a choice to not give in to gravity. Crumbling or raging will not change gravity nor the grave. Not giving in is the first step toward thinking, now what, what is the next step given this serious pickle? Thinking, not buckling to the weight or the downward force, while standing straight, feeling tall, and, well, defying gravity.
Score: Gravity, 0; Yoga, 3.