The below article was submitted by our dear friend and Austin, TX based writer/yoga teacher/heath outreach coordinator/all around great person Julia Winston. Would you like to learn more information on how to contribute to our site? Have some articles of your own that you would like to submit? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Julia Winston
It’s a Friday afternoon and you’ve had a long week. Or maybe it’s just any old day, and you need a release. So what’s it gonna be? Yoga or happy hour? Oh man, not this conundrum again! Choosing $2 beers over yoga seems so…unyogic. But you’re young and free and you just want a drink (or 3). If you go to yoga, you’ll feel good about yourself but you’ll miss out on a good time. If you go to happy hour, you’ll have a great time but you’ll feel bad that you didn’t go to yoga.
This is a balancing act with which most of us are familiar, and you don’t have to be into yoga to know what I’m talking about. Running, biking, hitting the gym, even gardening, writing, or reading–all the wholesome activities we choose to do because they make us feel good about ourselves–sometimes take the back seat while Booze (or whatever your poison may be) rides shotgun.
It goes without saying that total and frequent inebriation is not a good thing. When the scale tips too far to the party side, I’m always dismayed to find that I lose myself a little bit. And I tend to start feeling like dehydrated road kill.
However. Swaying too far in the health-conscious direction can be just as debilitating. In some of my lightest hours of yoga passion—like when I came back to the States after burrowing deep in the yoga holes of India—I felt like a million bucks physically, but it occurred to me that I might be becoming unrelatable to the people around me, which pained me spiritually. I felt I was becoming airy-fairy in my existentialism, rigid about my health, and judgmental about other people’s lifestyle choices, all at the same time. It turns out, upon deep and honest self-examination, that too much yoga can be too much of a good thing if it’s not moderated by FUN.
Over the past year, I have crept back into my inclination to imbibe. I still nurture the yogic elements of health and self-awareness that I hold so dear, but I’m always trying to find a balance between my dedication to yoga and my appetite for fun, and it’s proving to be quite the challenge. Much contemplation has emerged from this exploration, and I have a few thoughts I’d like to share.
Thought #1: I would like to offer a scientific justification for my claim that we should have respect for both our yoga practice and our penchant for partying. The human brain can be categorized into four different states of consciousness. When you’re in deep sleep, your brainwaves are functioning at Delta. When you’re really drowsy or on the verge of falling asleep, you are in Theta. During your busybody waking life, when you are alert and focused, your brain is in Beta. When you are awake and alert but relaxed, like, say during a yoga class or after you’ve had a glass of red wine, your brainwaves are functioning in Alpha. And Alpha, my friends, is a beautiful place to be. The reason we feel so blissed out after a badass yoga class or a delicious margarita is that, in both situations, our brainwaves have literally slowed down, allowing us to relaaaaax. Ahhhhh.
Thought #2: When you do choose happy hour over yoga, don’t beat yourself up about it, because guilt can be just as destructive and toxic as any drug. Believe me, I have plenty of experience–as a woman, sister, daughter, granddaughter, employee, friend, and Jew, I’m guilty of feeling guilty about something inconsequential pretty much every day (thanks Mom), but I’m working on it. And yoga helps me do that. Incidentally, so does tequila.
Thought #3: Life is full of contradictions. I say we should embrace escapism, as long as it’s in moderation. It’s natural. It’s wholesome. Just look at kids: Since the dawn of time, children have been spinning in circles to alter their realities, and what do they have to escape from? (Lucky bastards).
Thought #4: The angel on your shoulder would just be a dude wearing a halo if it weren’t for that other guy on your other shoulder. This is the Nature of All Things. How can we fully appreciate our healthy endeavors without our moments of sloth and debauchery?
If it weren’t for my partying tendencies, I suspect I would become a full-blown Sanskrit spouting, essential oil sniffing, unflinchingly nutrition-conscious, no-fun, socially estranged, stick up my butt yoga nerd. And I am a total yoga nerd. But nerds who like to have fun are even cooler than cool people who like to have fun. Boom! Balance, baby!
So I’ll eat my granola and goji berries with flaxseed for breakfast and I’ll buy local organic and I’ll recycle everything in sight and I’ll gong my Tibetan singing bowl and I’ll do my asana and kriya and pranayama and I’ll OM ‘til the cows come home, but I’ll tell you what else I’m going to do. It’s a balancing pose I like to call “Festive Eagle,” or Fun-asana Garudasana. An obscure and mystical pose, it combines my desire to be Healthy with my desire not to be a Control Freak, and here’s what it looks like: I kick asana at the yoga studio, and then I fly to the bar. Anyone want to join? We can talk shakti over an ice cold one, and feel really good about it.
Fresh out of college and stressed about the “real world,” Julia Winston decided to try yoga as a way to chill out. In no time at all, she had fallen hard. She practiced with Sri Dharma Mittra and other inspirational teachers in New York City until her love for travel and her desire to explore Inner Self and collective consciousness led her on a yogic journey through India, Nepal, Thailand and Israel. Upon her return to the US of A, she became certified as a yoga teacher and taught in Harlem before moving back to her native Austin, Texas, where she now works as a writer, voice-over artist, yoga teacher and health outreach worker.