Yoga ruined my life. As a young lawyer, I was perfectly content to verbally skewer evil landlords and opposing counsel in Brooklyn Housing Court. Okay, maybe I had anger management issues. I lacked awareness of my vitriolic tendencies. Anger, in addition to well-drafted briefs, allowed me to hold my own in Court. My attitude fostered, promoted and cultivated a formidable opponent to my court room adversaries. My clients were impressed that they had hired the baddest legal counselor money could buy.
Adrenaline accompanied acrimony. My intolerance grew. I sought anger fixes everywhere: in cabs when the driver selected a circuitous route, in restaurants when the food failed to impress, and in department stores where draconian exchange policies prevented me from returning my stilettos.
In New York City, a force field of anger protected against the desultory side effects of urban living. With shoulders pinned into my back and a what-are-you-looking at scowl, I gained prized space on subways and thwarted the catcalls of construction workers. Patients in post operation might walk hospital hallways dragging stands with morphine in a plastic baggy on an IV drip, but as I strode down Broadway wearing this mad mask, I dragged an IV of rage.
Yet in moments of solitude, I admitted to myself that this lifestyle left much to be desired. The rage was taking its toll. Chewing cherry tums failed to stop my stomach’s churning. My digestive health worsened. The gastroenterologist hypothesized that irritable bowel syndrome or maybe Crohn’s Disease plagued me, but all test results were normal. Nothing worked: mild food, chocolates or shopping for Jimmy Choos. The doctor suggested yoga.
I had dabbled in yoga regularly since suffering test anxiety in law school. Yoga was paying off in some ways. My biceps were to die for (look out, Michelle Obama). Still something was missing. Like water eroding a stone, yoga is cumulative and works over time. I was looking for a quick fix. It didn’t happen. Yoga transformed me slowly. Gradually, the physical side of yoga led me to meditation and mindfulness. I was succumbing to calm. And I liked it.
I can still litigate but I choose not to. Yogic equipoise ruined my litigator’s edge. Perhaps ruin is too strong a word. If my love affair with anger had to end, then ruination was not so bad. I stopped litigating when I started treating my court room negotiations like breathing exercises for a yoga class. Opponents were never the wiser as I synchronized my breathing with theirs. The settlements flowed smoothly and amicably. My angry bowel syndrome disappeared.
Not surprisingly, I shall need a lifetime to learn yoga poses demanding flexibility and surrender while poses requiring strength and ferocity come easily to me. Sometimes anger ambushes me but I no longer hear the Wicked Witch of the West theme song hummed by people sucked into the wake of my path. Now, I hear only the sonorous, soothing sound of Om.