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Back To The Mat; Back To Myself

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I discovered yoga in the previous millennium, back when even children knew what a VCR was. Off and on for several years, I perfected poses in my living room, obtaining yogic wisdom via VHS. Props were scarce. Space was tight. I didn’t have a mat, and my downward dog often featured an actual dog. Nevertheless, I managed.

When I got divorced in 2006, I embarked on a voyage of self-discovery and definition. I invested in a mat as well as official “active wear,” and I bought myself a class card at a local yoga studio. Having never taken a class before, I was immediately mesmerized by my instructor. She seemed to know everything from how to push my poses to wacky ways of breathing. Her routines were exquisitely choreographed and a fabulous flowing energy pulsated through the studio on those sacred Monday night sessions.

Through the practice of yoga, I made countless dedications to myself, others around me and various aspects of my life. I learned to be still, watch my breath and let go of all thestuff. I developed an appreciation for the scent of sweat and an affection for the supportive stickiness of my big-name mat. I embraced a new concept of strength and stability. I fell in love with my “yoga body”. And, of course, I attempted to recruit everyone I knew to come to class with me.

When my teacher began pursuing my boyfriend, she proved herself utterly unworthy of my devotion. At first I was torn and confused.

Surely, I’m imagining things, I told myself. An esteemed spiritual guru would never make such a play!

It turned out, my intuition was correct, and being right never felt so awful. I was ashamed for trusting my instructor with so much of myself. I felt stupid for the way I’d promoted her to anyone who would listen. I hated to admit it, but I was hurt. In response to the excruciating discomfort, I employed the very human tactic of dousing my pain with anger. Defiantly, I packed away my mat and denounced the entire yoga industry. For the next few years, the mat remained hidden from view. On those occasions when my muscles were tight, I indulged in simple “stretching” exercises and never dared to utter the Y-word.

Last fall, my old teacher found renewed motivation and finally acquired my partner, my home and half of my family. For weeks, I wandered aimlessly through each day as caring friends, family and co-workers propped me up time and again with their kind words and sympathetic ears. My grief was so potent, there was no denying it. Too depleted to be angry, I had no choice but to surrender to the overwhelming ache in my soul.

Admitting that I was broken proved to be quite liberating. For months, I gulped expensive therapy, indulged in emotional art projects, devoured self-help books and cried a lot. When the torrent of tears slowed to a trickle, circumstances brought me face-to-face with some familiar faces from my old yoga community. I felt anxious, yet intrigued, when it was suggested that I try a class at a new studio in town.

After much deliberation, I let my curiosity (as well as the desire to re-sculpt my yoga body) lead me to the new space. On the mat, my body shifted fluidly, as if I’d never left the practice. A few minutes in, while balanced in boat pose, heart open and abs trembling, I realized that I was smiling. As class concluded, I felt rejuvenated and exhilarated. At home, I sent a message of gratitude to the instructor and his partner. Something within me had re-aligned.

Three weeks later, I’ve deemed myself a student of yoga (not a devotee of any one teacher). I now hold class cards at three local studios. Since clearing my emotional blockages, I’m more in tune to connect with myself. Back on the mat, I’m able to be still, watch my breath and let go of all the stuff once again. It is truly a magnificent release.

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