In Praise of The U-Turn

Like all sane people, I have occasionally had quite in depth conversations with my sat nav. When she throws her hands in the air, from her austere, square dashboard-universe, and commands her last resort (‘When possible, make a U-turn’) in her cut-glass, authoritative melody, she is giving up, or at least making a medium-sized sulky (not-angry-just-disappointed) show of it.

But this splendid brilliance called life would be deeply dull if we weren’t allowed to change our minds. How liberating it might be, I sometimes imagine in my most indecisive moments, to have to stick to your historical choices (even those you don’t particularly realise you once made), never to doubt yourself, never to wonder about the alternative possibilities you’ve shunned (or repressed or not had the guts to explore) along the way, knowing you need only power on through your once-made decisions to linear infinity, arriving, at the end, and with confidence, at some pre-determined place where outcomes are predictable, productive and planned.

But that’s a lot of P.

Personally, I think life is a nebulous, freeform cloud, with some bits floating away at the edges when you lose focus on them, but other bits floating in towards it when you least expect them, like lost, inquisitive children, wondering if they can join in your cloudy game.

My recent, entirely uncloudy game in Bali was going to involve coconuts, reading and daily yoga. I got there, and yes, the coconuts called to me, sometimes carved as hearts and stars, and I read a lot. But yoga did NOT call to me. I am deeply in awe of those who want to do yoga in a place so humid and hot, but that is not a natural yogic climate for an English girl (OK, perhaps I would have climatised if I’d stayed longer… And was nearly fortunate enough to have had the chance to find out, since just an hour before I had to leave for my flight home the airport was still closed due to a nearby volcano eruption), even if the heat does make your lunges deeper and your hamstrings looser. I did one class; I quite liked it, kundalini breathing and all, but I couldn’t handle the dripping heat.

Instead, I took up swimming, in a big way (having never bothered much with it before). And among other eclectic, gathered experiences, I delved deep into the cosmic world of sound & meditation, having said to a friend only a week earlier that meditation is not something I tend to be interested in (by which I meant that I do it all the time, often without consciously intending to, which is true; and which makes me quite unsure of the feeling of ‘structured’/’group’ meditation; it’s a bit like how I often find the idea of group prayer contrived and uncomfortable, though it comes naturally to me alone).

Anyway. I got into that. I enjoyed the connections in groups; one or two moments of ‘free toning’, aka singing and humming at whatever pitch comes naturally to each individual in the group, were an honest highlight; convergence, harmony, creative anomalies ‘n’ all. But I was disappointed about the yoga – what a failure I was being! Did I mention that Bali (Ubud particularly) is a yoga haven? Everyone walks around thoroughly enlightened, beautiful, calm, present; mat rolled and hooked under their arm… (I may sound mocking, but I love it, especially when I can sip on a coconut through a bamboo straw while enjoying the general radiance).


Yoga and I have had a mixed relationship over the years. I went through a phase of doing it a lot a few years ago. I used to go to an advanced yoga class which was put on especially for dancers. I am quite flexible and could do most of the more ‘interesting’ poses with relative ease, and I loved the dynamism and challenge of a fast-paced, intense class. Some parts of my body were very strong and others weaker (it was interesting to discover which weaknesses put a limit on how long I could hold the most unlikely positions, and work on those). I found the spiritual side a distraction (though only while doing yoga); I was there for a work-out, deep stretches and to see what my body could do. Anything else was boring. I wasn’t saying Namaste at the end of class (and nor was the dancer-teacher). Nope. I was too busy throwing one leg preposterously high in the air and pointing my toes.

But now that I’m back home from Bali, in the milder, more forgiving climate of England, I have that spiritual re-boot to work with and a body that (undeservingly) can still do all manner of geometrically-pleasing things (and still has certain weaknesses, which my ego still occasionally fixates on). I stumbled a few days ago on a 30-day yoga intensive course online, and am in love with it. But what I love about it is the emphasis on ease and effortlessness. How infuriating I would have found this in the past, but what a pleasure it is to see more fully that there is more to yoga than performance; that yoga and any notion of ‘performance’ are quite incompatible, in fact.

I woke up this morning with aching limbs, and though I might previously have found this exciting for a different reason, I now just enjoy the sensation for what it is. Yes, it’s change, but it’s a change of a different, subtler sort.


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