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On Yoga, Duende, and the Art of Letting Go

On Yoga, Duende, and the Art of Letting Go

My body craves yoga.

Not just in the I-feel-good-when-I-do-it way.

Something deep within my bones, my spirit, my joints, my tendons just cries out for it.

Tonight, I relaxed into pigeon pose after an eventful evening in the kitchen – dinner was squash chili, green beans, and a raw veggie platter with homemade artichoke hummus, if you were wondering. I had been racing the last of the light, flipping plates and knives and ingredients, molding them carefully into these dishes in just enough time to take my blog photos while the sun still spilled onto the hardwood floor. I’m a tornado in the kitchen, by the way. My husband always says so, but I really feel it.

It’s like I’m back in my MFA writing workshops and we’re sitting around square tables in the windowless room discussing Lorca’s “Juego y Teoria del Duende,” and muses, and ideas that possess or inhabit you when you’re in this elevated state in your writing.

The duende is a little guide. It’s “a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, ‘The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.’” And wow you should read the whole lecture sometime because it’s just beautiful.

Is there duende for cooking? Because if there is, then ya lo tengo, and I can’t stop myself from making these messes in the kitchen. It’s like Julia Child and James Beard are there like, “Keep going! Something is emerging from this mess and this madness.” I’m totally in a zone, riding some kind of magic. The good news is that my duende carries me through the clean-up and the dishes are in the dishwasher before I even eat one bite.

I’m such a tornado that tonight I knocked the legs off my stand where I had my chili waiting patiently to be photographed and sent it crashing into the couch, along with my green beans and… everything I was going to eat for dinner.

Sometimes, I need to just.   slow.        down.

So I took a moment away, some time to think and remember my breath. I listened to which joints ached and which muscles screamed or whispered. And I decided to do some yoga. But as I lay stretched in pigeon pose, allowing my body time to settle in, I was resisting. My hip was gripping, refusing to let me fully express. It hurt. My body was crying out for this moment, but I couldn’t convince my muscles to relax enough to dig into the pose completely. I knew if I did, the payoff would be great. I had done this same exact thing a hundred times before. But I couldn’t help but resist.

I was holding myself back.

Do you ever notice that your body can physically manifest an emotion or feeling you’re having? Just today, I was watching a show about a woman in the magazine industry. Her company was hiring a new editor-in-chief, and she was terrified about losing her job. She felt like everything was out of her control. And guess what? She completely lost her voice. Our bodies are amazing, so when I feel a strong resistance in mine, I start to dig deeper.

Why can’t I relax into this pose right now? What am I holding onto in my life at this moment that could be holding me back?

And why, sometimes, can’t we let go of the things we should let go of? Things that would free us of a certain burden or heartache or set of chains? Instead, we run back to them, and they welcome us with arms wide. Why is it so easy for me to release over half of my wardrobe in the move, but I can’t get rid of a $3 patch from Banff National Park, as if losing it would mean I had never even gone there in the first place? Why are we clinging so tightly to the past, to control, to the possibilities of what might have been, when we should be pushing forward, wildly and boldly?

I don’t have an answer for you. I’ve been holding onto a lot. Friendships that are shrinking and withering, ties to old cities, paperwork that I will never need, but can’t just throw away. I’m in a new place far away from all my friends and family, and anything recognizable, and I’m hanging on. My body is, too.

But I suspect some of it – a lot of it – is nostalgia, sentimentality… the same reason why I’m hanging onto the two jars of our wedding favor bath salts that I only have because someone sent them to me when they realized I forgot to save myself anything – a succulent, a San Francisco chocolate bar, a Michigan soap, a golf ball with our names. It’s as if using these bath salts WILL ERASE a special moment from my wedding that I can never get back.

But that’s not true.

Not at all.

I will have those old moments, those memories, until I’m old and wrinkled and my mind decides they’re no longer relevant to the catalogue of my life. I don’t need the bath salts to prove it. I don’t need that patch, proof of a friendship, a token, a photograph, or anything physical to convince myself. (Not that there is anything wrong with hanging onto something with sentimental value – we all have to make that call on our own. If it brings you great joy, by all means, KEEP IT. I just want you to know that losing it does not erase your experience or your relationship.)

I am moving toward relishing the present, instead of living in the past, though I can look back on it fondly. I guess it’s all part of my beginning journey toward a more mindful and minimal life. And according to The Minimalists, minimalism is “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” It’s a way to make decisions on what’s important to keep and what’s important to let go – “to search for happiness not through [collecting] things, but through life itself.”

Why not use the salts, instead of hanging onto them? Why not crack the expensive champagne on a night that doesn’t feel special at all, instead of saving it for some occasion? When will you know when that occasion arrives? And what if you wait too long? What if you miss it?

I’ve been holding onto a lot lately, saving it. And my body is just reflecting my soul back to me, in those moments where it’s stuck, not moving forward. When I can’t relax my muscles and joints, there’s a deeper reason. I have to listen.

But I’ll continue to turn to cooking, to yoga, to writing, to all the ways I can nurture and express myself and all the ways puedo tener duende y su magia, ways I can feel life completely and fully. I’ll continue to coax my body, gently. Speak to myself mindfully, instead of resisting. To sit with my feelings. To relax into the painful parts. To release what’s gripping me, what’s holding me back. I’ll learn to let go of physical things when it feels right to do so.

I’ll learn to stop pursuing friendships and paths that have been dead for years. I’ll learn that things are just things, and can’t replace the warmth and weight of memories. I’ll hang onto the people and objects that really MEAN something to me, the supportive and functional and happy and lovely, and I’ll be okay losing everything else. And in the meantime, I’ll be here, waiting for something beautiful to emerge from this mess and this madness.

…This started off as a post about pesto. I’m not sure how I could possibly transition to that now. I’ve been hiding behind carefully edited photos and tested and re-tested recipes because I haven’t been sure my writing was enough to stand on its own. People can’t possibly come to a blog and every once in a while, JUST SEE WRITING.

But you know what? I’m letting go of that, too.


23 thoughts on “On Yoga, Duende, and the Art of Letting Go”

  • I need to do yoga! I feel like I would absolutely love it. Like i want to be more flexible and strong, have a good recommendation for like an everyday youtube video or?!!? BTW I LOVE PESTO! OMG!!!! Like I literally can not wait for this bridal shower so I can get all this amazing kitchen appliances to make homemade things! YAY!

    • You should definitely try it! I love Yoga with Adrienne or Boho Beautiful. Blogilates is fun, too, for pilates (: Pesto is THE BEST <3 Do you make it ever?

    • Yoga is definitely a lifesaver in that way, to help me calm down and reflect. That’s why I love it so much!

  • It’s HARD WORK to be mindful and live in the present, when the whys and the what ifs are weighing you down, but there’s something beautiful and peaceful and calm about learning to just appreciate the moment and not search for more. I can totally relate to hanging onto relationships that have outlived their season or purpose of time….I like to believe that people who have crossed my path are meant to be in my life forever, but it simply isn’t true, and that is painful! Your writing is beautiful and real and so honest that I cannot imagine anyone not being captivated by it!

    • It’s hard not to let go of those people if they’ve been in your life for a long time, but sometimes it’s necessary. Thank you for your wonderful compliments and for reading the whole thing! (:

  • I started doing yoga for my soul more than for my body. It’s so true that you need to let go of friendships that no longer serve you even if they have been your friends forever. It’s hard, but hanging on to negative relationships is worse.

    • I totally agree that yoga seems to do more for my spirit than my body sometimes. And letting go of friendships is SO PAINFUL, but I have to believe sometimes it’s for the better!

    • Thanks, Hal! Yes – there is nothing like a good hot yoga session and the feeling of accomplishment when you’ve sweat your way through (:

  • “I’ll hang onto the people and objects that really MEAN something to me, the supportive and functional and happy and lovely, and I’ll be okay losing everything else.” Beautifully said.

  • “I’ll learn to stop pursuing friendships and paths that have been dead for years.” So true. Knowing when to stop is an art in itself.

    • It’s definitely an art and there is no manual on how or when or why you should do it… it’s tough but a definite growth opportunity (:

    • I love it, too! Finding time is the hard part, but I never regret making it a part of my day when I squeeze it in! (:

  • I noticed how you slowed down in your post, starting off a tornado then into stillness, this is why I feel my body also craves yoga, not so much because I am running around like a tornado (I am) but its also my mind never stops…and very interesting about the decluttering, I see this too – overwhelmingly to the point I am needing to follow that minimalistic approach, I know I’d feel more at ease and its part of the mind always going, having no space physically feels like having no space mentally. Thank you, I really enjoyed this post!!

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