I was recently asked by someone I had just met, “What do you do?” I paused before responding because that was a loaded question. Where do I start? What don’t I do? How to answer this question? A list of optional responses flashed in my mind in that micro-second of a moment. I function as the glue that holds my family together. I’m a mother and do all that motherly stuff –even with a college student. I’m a wife, and although that’s completely different from being a mother, there’s a nurturing, loving piece that’s kind of similar. I do education with 3, 4 and 5 year olds with special needs and delays. I also do a flying fishing gear company.
Finally I respond, “I do yoga and fly fishing.”
Yoga and fly fishing are not what I’ve always done. In the past I would have answered that question with “I run.” These days my body complains and gets angry if I run regularly and put on long miles. I love running but it no longer loves me. Besides, after years of abusing my body and pushing it to perform and ignoring pain, I decided to take a more gentle approach to myself. I decided to take a more gentle approach to life.
About seven years ago I started looking for an alternative pastime – something to do other than run. Yoga was getting a lot of new attention in both the medical and sports media worlds, and being the hippie chick that I am, I thought I should check it out. Let me be perfectly clear here, this was a stretch for me (no pun intended). I have never been a flexible sort of gal. I am strong. I have endurance. Flexibility, not so much. I was of the belief that yoga was for Gumby Girls, which I was not. Needing to do something, I allowed myself to fall victim to social media pressure and tried a class.
I tried a number of different styles and settled on Bikram. First and foremost, I could pronounce it. Second, Bikram yoga requires that postures are practiced in a studio that’s at least 104 degrees with a minimum of 40% humidity. As a native Floridian, high heat and humidity were familiar to me. While intense, I found this climate relaxed my tight-as-a-drum muscles and, as long as I continued to breathe through the class, it helped me sweat myself into postures and contortions that initially seemed impossible. Bikram was my ticket.
I confess I suffer from an ailment known as “monkey-mind.” Monkey-mind is an affectionate term coined by my yoga instructor which refers to the incessant chatter that occurs in one’s mind throughout the course of the day. It’s the chatter that consists of the lists of to-dos that are endless, the chores that need completing, the emails that require responding, what to make for dinner, etc. You get it, monkey-mind.
Through yoga, I have learned to focus on the very moment that I am in and appreciate it, instead of thinking about those things.
So where does fly fishing come into this? Well, I am married to a fly fishing guy. Yep, 14 years. We like each other, too. Some time ago we made an agreement; I would fly fish with him if he would do yoga with me. I was having trouble with commitment - to yoga that is, not to him - and needed a partner to help keep me motivated. Problem was, here’s another confession, I wasn’t thrilled with fly fishing. I liked all the ingredients that made up fly fishing like being outside, the water, the fish, the hiking. But, when you put them all together, it took a lot of patience, required working with impossibly tiny things that were hard to see and seemed like it meant standing in the same place for a long time. Standing still was not something I excelled at. I often lost interest before the rod was completely set up.
I found yoga and fly fishing complemented each other perfectly. Yoga required patience with myself, with my body and with my mind. Through practicing yoga, I learned to quiet the monkey-mind and just breathe. Fly fishing required patience with myself, with my body and with my mind. Through practicing fly fishing I learned to quiet the monkey-mind and just breathe. I developed patience for tying tiny knots and threading invisible thread through impossibly small holes. I learned to be still in the water and not create typhoons when I walked through streams. I am still learning to make adjustments to my cast and hook-set in order to produce more landings. And I am still practicing letting go of frustration when I miss a hook-set or get tangled in a tree, and simply appreciate the moment of being there on the water surrounded by beauty.
My yoga instructors says, “The more often you do it, the more often you do it.” I find this true and it brings us full circle to the “do” again. The more I do yoga the better I become at fly fishing and visa-versa. Both are teaching me how to be present and more conscious in what I do. Through my practice of yoga and fly fishing, I have become more balanced in my life in and out of the water and I am learning that the smallest adjustments, result in the biggest changes. When I fish I make sure to look around, notice where I am, use only the muscles I need to use, relax everything else and breathe. When I do this, I feel a more intimate connection to the line and the fish and my timing is better. When I feel I’ve done my best, I move on to the next hole. Through fly fishing and yoga I’ve discovered life is more about the mini moments in which you conquer yourself, rather than the trophy fish or a perfect posture. This is what matters the most.
So maybe, rather than doing yoga and fly fishing, I should say I practice them, over and over again, since neither are ever really mastered but provide an incredible journey of self-discovery. One last thing my yoga instructor says is, “It’s simple, but not easy,” and I agree. Without a doubt, the things we work hardest for are the things we’re most proud of. I’ve learned so much about myself in the last seven years I’ve been practicing yoga. These days I do as I please and find pleasure in doing. I practice finding the fishing and yoga in all things. I am a fly fishing yogini (and that really is a word).