Wild animals that live in wild habitats move with economy and grace. They are sensitive, responsive and calm. I was once a wild animal. I walked barefoot across the earth, crouching, squatting, creeping and kneeling without restraint. My back was strong and my hands and feet were even stronger. Then I came inside. And I started to sit. At school, at work, to and fro in the car. And I put shoes on my feet, abandoning the rough, tangled trails in favor of hard, level surfaces. And I didn’t even notice when the zookeepers started feeding me special all-in-one people chow.
But one day I awoke, pacing, gnawing and howling, longing for my old wild self. Longing for the freedom to run across the dark plains under the silver moon. Longing for the sweet smell of earth and sunlit ferns. Longing to feel the power and delight of my full wild self. I was 9 years old and I ripped off my shirt and shoes and biked around our peninsula as fast as I could with my long hair streaming behind me. The craving for freedom hits me over and over. I was 18 when I took off hiking north on the Appalachian Trail and 22 when I hiked from Mexico to Canada alone on the Pacific Crest Trail. I hiked across the Alaskan tundra, and climbed to the top of the rainforest canopy. I climbed Half Dome by moonlight, blew snot rockets into the wind and was struck by lightening on the Continental Divide. All along I feared the dark and predators (what wild thing doesn’t?) but I taught myself to stay calm and present amid my fears.
Yoga helped me to re-awaken and ignite the fire of intelligence in my body and to connect all the pieces of myself into one useful, sensitive, responsive whole. Yoga in the form of reconnecting is the foundation I use for all of my mindful athletic movement.
I also realized that wild strong bodies need more than people chow and antibiotics to sustain themselves. I started eating real food. The kind that grows out of the ground. The kind that foxes, moose and chickadees prefer.
A wild life does not wind up neat and clean, there is no grand conclusion or sustained form of perfection. Like us, wildlife get hurt; they loose their babies, their homes, even their way.
The idea of how to re-wild myself and of how to live an authentic,wild life has guided me my whole adult life. It is why I live in rural Maine, why I birthed my babies at home and why my husband and I choose to live a media-free, barefoot, tangled life together.
It is why every day I choose to practice yoga and go to the forest. Wild animals need to keep their senses keen and their presence near.