I tried to do yoga once a couple of years ago, but I left the class feeling like a loser.
“Try yoga,” people said to me. “It will make you less anxious,” they said.
But it was, in fact, having the opposite effect. I couldn’t quiet my mind because I was so busy worrying about how dumb I looked as well as how frustrating these ridiculous contortions were that everyone else around me seemed to enjoy.
I looked at the clock every five minutes.
Class started at 5:00.
Me, to myself, in my head at 5:05, when I’m already feeling weird: “You’ve got this. If you literally hate this, you can leave. No one is holding a gun to your head.”
But here’s the thing: NOBODY JUST WALKS OUT OF YOGA. It’s, like, one of those unspoken rules. You don’t want to disrupt the energy in the room and whatnot. I don’t know why. I don’t speak yoga language.
But yoga made me anxious, and I swore it off–completely off. “I am not going back there to deal with those weirdos,” I told anyone who would listen. I carried on like this, reciting the ridiculousness of yoga for TWO WHOLE YEARS.
And then, something happened.
Last December I was having some health issues. I went to see my doctor. She recommended that I destress and consider starting–you guessed it–the dreaded yoga.
Despite my negative memories of downward dogging and trying to contort myself into a crow pose, my doctor somehow convinced me (she must have hypnotized me without me knowing it), that it would be a good idea to try again.
Yoga take two: Once again, I sucked at the movements. But this time, GLORY BE-it was a new teacher. This teacher acted differently towards me. She watched me like a hawk and kept helping me. She was like, a real teacher. If something was challenging for me, she immediately showed me a modification or told me to just be still.
She also incorporated meditation into the practice and asked us to “set our intention” for the day. As we cycled through movements, she reminded us to keep our chest forward with an open heart. She also spoke about gratefulness and self compassion and spreading peace. When we were exhaling, she reminded us to exhale those “feelings which no longer serve you.”
Within a few minutes, I FINALLY realized WHY in the heck I was there. It wasn’t about learning these movements. It was about quieting the mind to be still in the present. Somehow, I had checked my ego at the door, and I was no longer trying to be perfect. I was just trying TO BE.
Over the last few months of practicing yoga, I have begun to marvel at how my body can actually be a POWERFUL thing. I can spread love and light through movement and physical energy. There are times I feel warmth and peacefulness spreading through my body during the practice. I also have felt stronger and more balanced.
Now before you start telling me I sound like a new age dingbat, I need you to understand something.
I need you to understand that yoga has, in many ways, SAVED me. It has saved me from poor decisions. It has saved me from acting impulsively upon painful emotions. It has saved me from giving energy to unhealthy relationships or urges. It has saved me from anxiety. It has saved me from using angry words. It has saved me from avoidance. It has saved me in so many ways that my eyes are welling up in tears just thinking about it.
In today’s yoga class, as I cycled through the flow of movements and heard my teacher say, “Breathe in love and breathe out light,” I thought of those who really need light in the world, and tears streamed from my cheeks. As she reminded us that we all “have cracks so that we can let the light in,” I thought about my own cracks and scars and how those, too, are beautiful things where light resides. And once again, I felt the tears.
When I can learn to be still–to feel, to pray, to meditate, and to use my body to spread love and light–THAT is where I have found the answers I need. As yoga teacher Eric Paskel says, “Yoga is not about tightening your ass. It’s about getting your head out of it.”
And so my mantra is this, guys: Be still. I am not perfect at it, but I’m getting better. It’s my intent, which is why I even bought a bracelet from MyIntent.org which looks like this:
Namaste, y’all. The light in me honors the light in you. 🙏🏽