The yoga studio was empty and dim, lit with the soft glow of six faux candles lining the mirror. I was ten minutes early so I could claim a spot in the shadowy area at the back. It wasn’t so much as to not be seen — although knowing how stiff and inflexible my body is at the moment, that was surely a perk — no, the mirrors didn’t extend to the edges of the studio so I didn’t have to catch glimpse of my body trying to move into the lithe and flawless shapes the instructor demonstrated so easily.
A few ‘Yummy Mummies’ (as the English call them) burst through the doors gossiping loudly about one of the instructors at the gym. I tried to keep my eyes closed, my breath focused, and melt into the mat instead of being caught up in the energy of their conversation. I didn’t want to share this quiet, peaceful space with them but they laid their mats out beside mine and the yoga instructor took her place at the front of the room.
We moved from a gentle savasana to a feel-good warm up. We were encouraged to find our own movement, our own practice within her guidance that felt authentic to our individual needs and bodies. My stiff hamstrings wouldn’t release into a full downward dog but it felt alright. I felt ok with where I was starting because unlike the yummy mummies, I wasn’t there for a great body, I was there to find peace of mind.
The instructor created a tangible energy in the room and as the room filled to capacity, I noticed an electric charge fill the space. The sun salutations began slowly: breathe in and extend your arms toward the sky, breathe out and release to heart-center, breathe in back up, and breathe out fold all the way down. Breathe in half way and breathe out release your palms to the floor. Full breath in and on the release, step or hop back to plank pose. Lower down with the breath into chataranga, ending on the out breath in downward facing dog.
Again and again with increasing awareness. An inward furnace seemed to burn within my belly, an enjoyable heat that enveloped my deepest muscles. I began to melt deeper into each pose. Breathe in and extend my heart, breathe out with a sigh. Breathe out all of your frustrations, and breathe in making space for peace. Breathe out anything that doesn’t belong on the mat, anything that’s holding you back from being fully present, and breath in your intention for your practice.
The words I am here. I am present.Effortlessly came to mind and I held them as my mantra. As my thighs shook in warrior II, I repeated the words I am here. I am present. Relishing in the feeling of being in a class creating good energy with the flow of my body; still, worries, frustrations, and fears that had driven me here pressed in on my mind, begging me to replay them and ruminate on them until I could find an answer.
I can’t find the answer, that’s why I’m here, I tell myself. I repeat my mantra silently as my hands find their way into prayer pose.Being here and present felt like courage. I had lost my sense of self and came to the mat hoping to find a piece of her. After leaving a community of people last year, who made up 85% of my life, I filled the gap with university and scholastic achievements. I felt burnt out going into the new year. I felt driven out by this community and resentful. I wanted to release these negative feelings and often felt like a good scream would do it but at the worst moments.
The feelings ate at me until I decided I had to do something about them. I created a plan: yoga every day for a week. That’s it. The plan didn’t extend further than that but with my practice I added seeing a friend once a week in person to help me feel connected and understood. I thought it would relieve the pressure put on my relationship and also help me restore myself back to the person I was or move forward into a version of myself I am happy to become. Not every class was easy and not every teacher was to my taste. I sat uncomfortably on Tuesday with a teacher who seemed to criticize her students in passive aggressive ways through their practice. She stopped correcting my down dog after a while, probably reading the disdain on my heavy brow.
I wanted to show up and do what my body could do. I didn’t want to bounce upside down into handstands, I am not interested in that sort of practice. I wanted to create a burn through flow that charged the air with electricity, that allowed me to explore my own limits and honor what my body wasn’t interested in doing (aka handstand…no thanks). I wanted the dimensions of my mat to create a boundary between me and the world — to allow the energy of the room to block or flow through me with the gentle placement of my fingertips. I wanted to make choices that felt good instead feeling forced into emotionally charged situations that had found their way into my life.
I am preparing for week two and whatever it brings. Whether I sit in another class I don’t want to be in and learn how to experience something uncomfortable or I learn how to take the practice into my life and create a flow of energy that aligns with my values; I’m open to anything, accepting lessons with grace, holding what is meant for me and releasing what isn’t.