Stepping Back to Go Forward

I used to be a fairly good pianist. Not impressively good, I don’t think I had the raw talent and I certainly didn’t have the dedication to practicing to take it anywhere beyond a serious hobby and a minor role in my high school orchestra. But I was also far better than “knows chopsticks and picked out the melody to ‘My Heart Will Go On’ once”; 12 years of lessons (more, if you count the keyboard classes before I was old enough for private instruction) will do that to you. At the end of each school year I participated in a program called “piano guild,” in which students were tasked with playing—from memory—a number of pieces for an adjudicator. One year, I presented 10 selections by Bach. In others, I included movements of sonatas by Mozart and Haydn. So yeah, I was good.

Then I went away to college. And grad school. And across the country. And to Canada. And I just stopped playing. Sure, I occasionally got to put my fingers on a set of keys, but I never made any effort to seek out regular access to a piano so I could continue practicing regularly. 

And that’s okay. I’ve always loved making music, but it’s just something I enjoy rather than an unyielding passion for me like it is for some. So letting it fall by the wayside wasn’t a heartbreak. 

Still, though, I have always enjoyed it, so since I’m back at my parents’ house for a few months before Steve and I head off to NZ, I decided I wanted to shake some of the rust away and start playing again. My parents were kind enough to have the piano tuned, and I’ve made it a point to practice a few times each week.

Here’s the thing: I’m still good. You don’t just lose your skills at something you worked at for over a decade just because you spend some years away. I don’t remember most of the songs I once knew by heart, but I can still play them if I look at the sheet music, and they still sound pretty decent. 

The problem is this: while I know logically that I am undeniably rusty, my intuition doesn’t seem to be able to make the connection. I still have a degree of muscle memory so my fingers try to fly over the keys a tempo to hit notes they don’t quite know anymore. 

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Body Positive Yoga for Insta-Inspiration

I’ve been doing yoga regularly for about a year now, and as someone who is still relatively new to the practice I often look at Instagram for inspiration and motivation. For example, I’m currently doing a 14-day “yoga challenge on IG that led to me trying a headstand yesterday for the first time!

While it’s amazing and inspiring to see the backbends and inversions these ladies (because, despite yoga having been a practice that was closed to women for a very long time, these days on the internet and in most yoga classes, the practitioners are a majority female) do, it only takes a few minutes of scrolling before you can’t help but notice that the most popular posters are thin, white, female, and decked out in the latest leggings from Lululemon or Alo.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, and being a fairly thin, definitely white woman who is currently waiting on Fedex to deliver a Lululemon order, it’s not that I can’t relate to these graceful women even if I don’t have a body that could be confused for a model’s. But it doesn’t reflect the yoga enthusiasts I’ve encountered in real life. In the yoga classes I attend, none of us have six-pack abs. Many students are beyond their early-to-mid 20s (my mom has started attending yoga classes recently, for example). Some are black, some are asian, some are men, some are children. Some practice chair yoga or have limitations due to disabilities or sorenesses.

That’s why reading Jessamyn Stanley’s book Every Body Yoga was such a breath of fresh air. Part yoga guide and part memoir, she describes her own journey to body acceptance and how we can balance our desire to emulate the cool asanas we see on social media with a practice that is kind to and loving toward our own bodies. What I love about the book is that she doesn’t say “Practice in your most tattered gym shorts and don’t even look at Instagram or you’re not a real yogi.” She totally acknowledges that buying brightly-patterned leggings and taking photos of yourself in your best dancer pose can be fun and even helpful. It’s just that you don’t have to do that, and you don’t have to look a certain way, and that your practice is yours to grow and embrace.

If you like to look at athletes or yoga practitioners on Instagram, then Jessamyn (@mynameisjessamyn) is a must-follow.

My strength doesn't come solely from yoga. And much as I appreciate the spoils of industry and capitalism, I don't think humans are supposed to exist in boxes. We're meant to frolic among the elements. In order to feel like a happy and functioning human being, I require quality time in nature- and when I'm home in the Old North State, that usually means I'm wandering through the hills surrounding the Eno River or splashing like a five year old in the streams. I'm not the most time efficient hiker and I'm a very lazy swimmer- but it's all good bc I'm not in it for the accolades. The joy I feel when I'm outside is unparalleled- it's the only place where I truly feel like my most authentic self. There's no way I could try to be a #ForceOfNature on my yoga mat without a distinct connection to the true forces of nature in our universe. My strength isn't just about moving my body- it's about making a connection to the power of this earth. #sponsored @rei Photo by my love @justincookphoto

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Here are some other Instagram accounts that offer body positive inspiration for your yoga journey:

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