I’ve turned into one of those people. You know the kind. The one who has discovered something new and wonderful and can’t stop yammering on about it. The person who inserts herself into your conversation to let you know that new thing will solve the issue you are experiencing. “If you would just try (insert fad here), it would change your life.” I hate people like me. I don’t want to join in on the latest fad because it is, by definition temporary, fleeting. So what has turned me into a miserable hypocrite? What has me inserting myself into random strangers’ conversations? Yoga.
Yoga isn’t new. It dates back to the sixth or fifth centuries BCE. Longevity speaks for itself. My own practice started 17 years ago. I stood in mountain pose in front of my TV for years. It was never a part of my identity; it was only something I did every so often. A few years into my home practice, I tried a class or two at various fitness facilities. Rather than feeling part of something, I was judged on my short arms. After all of this time, I still remember feeling anger at my body for once again failing to meet some quality control matter.
Given my previous mental models of yoga instruction, I was dubious to walk in another studio. My practice at River Bend Yoga started in January. I needed a way to focus and let go. I needed something to stop the ache and the sadness. My curiosity about hot yoga won out over the fear of my limitations. I have never sweated that much in my entire life, and I ran a half marathon in July in St. Louis. At the close of the hour, as I lay in savasana, I wept. I felt free. I felt strong. I went back for a second class, and every Sunday I go back to find my center.
I call them my triumvirate of peace, joy, and strength; they call themselves Judy, Vicky and Janet. They will tell you they are doing their job and teaching yoga; I will tell you they are changing my life. There is no place I’d rather be on Sunday mornings than sweating with total strangers who have become an important part of my life. The group of women, and our one guy, who practice on Sundays varies, but there are a few of us who look forward to our brief hellos before Judy calls us to begin. Yoga with Judy is like PBS yoga. She explains the benefits of each pose, whether it is correcting our posture or stimulating our thyroids. I leave knowing a little bit more about my body and how my practice is correcting, revising all of the little mistakes the hustle and bustle of daily life manages to produce.
Tuesdays bring hot yoga and a block of time where an old friend and I have reconnected. We used to attempt monthly lunches or dinners, but they were sporadic rather than regular. Tuesday nights I wait on my sidewalk for Jamie to pick me up so we can catch up on the week. We make sure we show up for the friendship and for the one hour dedicated to improving our minds and bodies so we can be better for our families. From Vicky, I have learned to how to find the healing light inside, focus it on what is in need of healing, and let the light of joy or peace soothe me. I can feel the healing light as I lie in savasana breathing in the cool air and exhaling that which no longer serves me. And sometimes, when I reach out my left hand, Jamie’s hand is right there because that’s what friendship is all about.
Wednesday nights are for the adventurous. Aerial yoga is, dare I say, rowdy? There is laughing, giggling (usually me), exhalations of “Are you kidding me?” and “You want me to do what?” (not always me). Janet’s only rules are never say “can’t” and always smile. You really do have to smile because Vicky takes pictures of each session and makes you hold the poses an incredibly long time to make sure the shot isn’t blurry. It’s a good thing they run a class that allows the participants to talk because I would have been invited to leave after the first 10 minutes. I try not to grunt as I hang by my feet and climb my way up the sling, but sometimes, a grunt escapes and betrays my struggle. I try not to giggle and squeal as I flip, fly and free fall toward the floor, but sometimes the utter weightlessness and feeling of unabashed joy is too much to suppress. There are words of encouragement and applause for those who give it their all. There are also a few “suck it up, buttercups” when we (I) don’t challenge ourselves (myself) to defy gravity, our fears, or our screaming muscles.
I have spent six solid months working on incorporating yoga into my daily life. My practice started as a way to find peace during an excruciatingly difficult time in my life; it has remained with me as a way to maintain peace and tranquility in my daily life. I build my mountain during hall duty. I inhale deeply and exhale slowly when Atticus asks the same question a thousand times in a day. I open my heart to the possibility of joy and friendship to those who are part of my life for just one or two hours a week. In this time, I have lost the envy I used to have when I saw someone who is more fit than I am. I have learned to avoid comparing myself to these ladies. I have learned to see the beauty in their strength and try to learn how they successfully flip up from their bottoms into flying locust or hold crow for more than a nanosecond.
So, yes, I am one of those people who yammers on about the latest fad and how it can change lives, but yoga isn’t a fad. Yoga at the bottom of State Street hill is a sanctuary for anyone who wants to find it and take from it all that it has to offer. Namaste.