I know, you’re thinking — she’s posting twice in one week, but hey you guys — something went down in yoga class!
My Tuesday night yoga class is sacred. It’s not just any class — it’s K.’s class. It’s sixty minutes to take the stress of the day and let it go *ear worm alert* (okay I guess I could have inserted that warning sooner). It’s an hour of coming to my mat, of honoring myself — which is sometimes as simple as accepting my body, being reminded that it’s perfect in the most imperfect way — a little fat and a few stretch marks, but this crazy wonderful body, brought an almost nine pound beautiful healthy boy into this world. The same body that transforms from inadequate to a vehicle of enlightenment and acceptance when I come to practice, There’s no room on that mat for distraction or self doubt. It’s not about what I didn’t do yesterday or have to do tomorrow, but about what I am capable of, right here, right now. It’s all about the present. This hour is a gift to myself. It’s what it feels like when your mind connects to your body. There’s nothing like the present and how many of us can truly say we even know what that feels like?
When I first came to yoga, I was dealing with a lot. I came to the mat postpartum and in the deepest depression I had ever experienced after the loss of my mother. I had gained nearly fifty pounds while attempting to learn to be a working mother to a beautiful but colicky baby boy who afforded me sometimes as little as four hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. I had changed jobs and stepped down from a higher level position to a position I believed to be more family friendly. And just when I started to balance that out, I lost my mother to an aggressive and late diagnosed cancer.
My hormones were out of control. My mind was disconnected from my body. I knew I needed something to keep me afloat and I remembered that for a semester in my undergrad, I had practiced Iyengar yoga. I felt like I needed to explore anything that might heal me and so I found a local yoga studio and completely self conscious of being the new fat girl at the studio, I put a call out on FB to any friends who might go with me. Two wonderful ladies answered.
…And that’s how I met K., a beautiful woman (think Carol from the walking dead only much less scary and a lot more maternal). Walking into her class was like walking into a kitchen with cookies baking in the oven. Everyone was so nice and no one seemed to judge. It didn’t matter to anyone that I couldn’t hold a downward facing dog for more than a minute before my arms shook and I came crashing to my knees. I struggled in that class — cursing my body for being so unfit and myself for thinking this was ever an option. But, at the end of class, K. thanked me for coming, for allowing her to teach me and in turn I thanked myself for practicing. She told me I was doing really good. She said, “I’ll see you next week.”
At my second class, everyone from the week before remembered my name and introduced me the new students I hadn’t yet met. I held my downward facing dog a bit longer. I learned to bring my elbows close to my body during chaturanga. I was sore but that voice inside my head cursed a little less. Week after week I came back. Sometimes taking two classes a week, but always class on Tuesday. I started to fall in love with the beads of sweat that danced down my cheeks. I began caring less and less when I couldn’t get all the way into a pose because I understood that as Bhagavad Gita said, “Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.” My body had limitations — that was the consequence of being human and more importantly — being alive.
This little church-like community was unknowingly helping me to grieve and to heal. These generous beings all in different stages of practice. Each week smiling at me because I showed up and each week I was getting — better. This warm little yoga studio next to a Peruvian restaurant was actually saving me. I suddenly fit in with these good people who didn’t squash bugs or curse while driving, because for those 60 minutes — I also didn’t curse or kill bugs. And if you were reading carefully — you’d know that only the present matters.
So you can imagine my devastation when I walked into class tonight with my Ben and Jerry’s “I Like to Spoon” tee-shirt and unrolled my mat to find that K. wasn’t teaching class tonight.
But that’s just for tonight, right?
“No,” says J., “I’m taking over Tuesday nights.”
Uh… whuh… wait… what? I missed one class ONE CLASS guys — last week, because the time change kicked my butt! One week and K.– is gone?? She didn’t check with me? She didn’t take into consideration that I picked my MFA schedule purely based on being able to still attend THIS class!
And we didn’t put our mats in an intimate little circle or start class with an OM. And my mind didn’t connect to my body tonight, because it was too busy mourning the loss of my tiny, precious, $18 therapy session. My mind didn’t let go — instead it added the panic of, What if I never connect to my practice again?
I didn’t enjoy class. I hated every minute of it. J– pushed me because she didn’t know that my hips are tight and that my lower back is always tender — but K. knows this. K. stretches my back out during class. J.’s class was challenging but not in the way that K.’s was, instead I felt more than ever like the fat girl in gym class. I desperately struggled. Every pose seemed like an affirmation of something else I couldn’t quite get right. Half way through, I checked my watch to see if an hour could really be this long?
I am left with choices. I can’t quit. I mean I bought a sticker for my car that says “I (heart) yoga.” It’s a car tattoo. It’s a commitment. You don’t walk away from that. I even bought a Jade mat on my two year anniversary to reward myself for sticking with it. And yet, Tuesday has lost something for me.
But on the other hand, in a drill sergeant like way, J– pushes me. I get angry and dig deeper. It seems contradictory to what yoga is about, yet what if it pushes me to try harder — accomplish more? J– didn’t realize that last month I had a pretty bad back injury and that this is just my second class since resting that injury. My mind was too full of resentment to listen to my body which was telling me to lay off. Maybe this is like starting over again. Maybe I need to move beyond my physical comfort zone. Maybe, if I don’t connect to J. — that’s okay too. I could check my ego and ask her to show me modifications for poses I simply can’t do. I could even attend other classes. The advanced classes — I have been practicing for two and half years after all, and maybe this is life’s way of saying, it’s time to step out of your comfort zone. I could even trust myself more and start practicing — at home (gasp). It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing. I could build up my endurance and maybe the hard classes won’t be quite so difficult.
At the moment, I’m sitting in my same gray tee-shirt with a small stain from the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream I ate as a consolation. In other words, I’m feeling really sorry for myself, but I know that by tomorrow it’ll work itself out. I’ll just shake it off (yup forgot my ear worm warning there too).
I also know that tomorrow, I’m going to be sore as heck…