This year I’m dedicating Valentine’s Day to a different type of lover, not a man of flesh and blood, but another who has taught me the art of self-love and acceptance. A lover who has healed my mind and body in ways I never expected. My one true soulmate.
This dedication has been in my heart for such a long time, and yet I (still) struggle to find the words to convey the impact that yoga, in all of its beautiful variations, its dynamic pathways to spiritual and physical freedom, has had on my one humble life. My journey thus far has been brief, having only committed myself to a near-daily practice for just over a year, but my passion grows stronger with every practice and I often wonder what life was like before I knew such joy.
Prior to moving to Colorado from Chicago four years ago, I viewed yoga as glorified stretching that only hippies and celebrities did. Because, after all, I was in the middle of the urban rat race. When it came to physical endeavors, unless you were training for a marathon or logging mad hours at the gym, you were a pussy. And spirituality? Who had time for that nonsense? Ah, but God bless Colorado. I don’t know if it’s the blue skies, or the clean air, or the majesty of these mountains, but something about this place (and I’ve said it before) just makes you want to live a better life, be a better human being. Finding myself on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the spring of 2013, I turned to yoga (and Bali) as a way to find mental stability. I would go to classes every now and again, and though I enjoyed them immensely, I didn’t get the physical benefits I do now until I joined CorePower Yoga in November of 2014 and took my first hot yoga class. If you’ve ever taken a Bikram class, it’s like that. HOT. 105 degrees hot. Sweating from places you didn’t know you could sweat from hot. I almost didn’t survive my first class, but my teacher Robert guided me through. His voice was so calming as he explained that yoga is a uniquely personal experience that our bodies and minds experience differently every day (code: there is no shame in staying in a mostly horizontal position if it ever gets to be too much). I still have days when my body or my mind (or both) shows up for class all fucked up and I question how I’ve kept this practice up for as long as I have. And yet I’ve never, EVER regretted showing up at the end.
And here’s why:
Yoga makes me love my body. What?! Love your body? No woman in her late 30’s, post-CSection loves her body. Oh but I do, maybe not every minute of every day, because unfortunately I still have a late 30’s, post-CSection body. But for the duration of every yoga class I show up to, I love it. Even in yoga pants; especially in yoga pants. I love the bend of my back in camel pose, the muscles in my shoulders and arms in chatarunga and even the curve in my butt during a belly rest. And I feel like a goddamned ballerina in dancer pose. Sometimes I even put my hair in a bun on top of my head so I can really fulfill that childhood fantasy. Truth be told, I have always been vain and have always had reasonably frustrating body image issues. I don’t think I’ll ever not look at myself in every mirror, window or barely reflective surface I pass, and yes, I love it when my yoga classes have mirrors on every wall and I always choose a spot in a corner where I can see myself from as many angles as possible. But I almost never set foot on the scale anymore, and it’s not because I’m going through a binge eating phase and I’m scared to know the truth. A large part of me has actually stopped caring what it says. Yoga has given me a body confidence I’ve never had before, even when I was a borderline anorexic in 2001 or on my wedding day (after months of two-a-day workouts at the gym and a 2-week Master Cleanse). I’m never not going to be on the curvier side, and I really couldn’t be happier about that. Curves are feminine and hot! Watching my muscles change and my flexibility grow, seeing old injuries and pains disappear, has been life-changing. My self-consciousness will likely always rear it’s ugly head (I even had a tummy consult with a plastic surgeon as recently as December. He told me to start swimming laps. Ugh.), but for me yoga has been a giant step in a positive direction.
Inner peace. Need I go on? Actually, yes I do because it’s imperative that you know, if you don’t know already, that I am an emotional basket case 40-50% of the time. I may pull off a good, if not great facade, but not very deep down I am coming apart at the seams. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been described as strong, resilient or even graceful (ha!) and been like, “what? who? you got the wrong chick, dude.” And yet I can begin a class in a complete emotional blur and come out feeling refreshed and invigorated with the wind at my back. I think and see clearly again. There is something especially effective about a hot or Bikram-style class – the heat is so intense and your body is working so hard to keep its shit together that your mind has no choice but to succumb to the most basic of brain functions, like reminding your hand to pick up the towel and wipe the sweat that’s pouring off your face. When was the last time, even in sleep, that you can honestly say you didn’t think or feel for a full hour? Yoga is like a deep tissue massage for your brain.
Lastly, as with any great love affair, it feels fucking amazing. Yep, I’ve decided to stop not saying fuck on my blog (see: http://www.scarymommy.com/why-i-use-the-f-word/). Some poses feel better than others depending on the day but at least once a class I find myself in some contortion going “oooohhhhhhh yeah, that feels goooooooood.” In others I simply feel beautiful and open. In yet others my body is aligning exactly as it should and that feels good. No matter what I come out feeling wrung out and cleansed. And undeniably addicted.
Do not view this as my way of trying to convince you to practice yoga. Remember: this blog, more than anything, is meant to act as a witness to my life. A future gift to my children. Children, even adult children, are naturally drawn to the experiences of their parents. If my kids read this one day and, having also witnessed what will have been my decades long practice, and it inspires them to start one of their own, that too would be a gift. If it merely gets them to embrace the word fuck, that’s okay with me too.