Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Yogatta be kidding me...


I went to Yin yoga tonight with my good friend Barb. She has told me over and over what a great experience it is. The last time I tried yoga, I couldn't walk for two days... so saying this was going to be a great experience is like telling myself to try sushi again. No, really, THIS time I will like it.

But I don't like sushi. And I can try it a hundred times more, and I am not going to like sushi... but with an open mind and heart, I drove to the yoga studio.

I met her in the parking lot. Yin yoga was going to be 'good for me'. It wasn't going to push me to a place of feeling uncomfortable. It was going to slowly get my body moving in ways it hasn't moved for a while (or I don't know, maybe ever). I walked in and was greeted by the instructor. He was a very kind man - older than me, curly hair, calming in his very nature. Unlike my last yoga experience, I could tell from the moment I walked in the studio, I was in a good place. He showed me around the building, had me take off my shoes (I wore tennis shoes... you know... noobie mistake) and my friend and I went into the studio. There was no talking and I set out my yoga mat (which I bought and have not used ONE single time in 5 years... well I used it that one time I said I would NEVER try yoga again... so I used it *one* time... but this mat still has that new mat smell) and I stretched out a bit.

The yoga studio was hot. Not stifling hot, but sitting on my yoga mat I felt myself getting warm. The instructor walked in right on time and we started doing some stretch poses. So far, it felt nice. Arms up, breathe in, meet hands above the head, breathe out, bring down the arms to heart chakra. Repeat. I could do this. My mind quieted. Then, the first real pose. Bend the right leg and sit on it, keep the left leg out straight, put the bolster behind your back and lean back.

I could not do it. I could not come close to doing it. I got so angry at my body, I felt so much shame. Everyone was going to look at me. Everyone was laughing and obviously staring at me in the mirror. And WHY WAS I DOING THIS AGAIN??? The instructor, seeing me struggle, came over to help, but I was awash in so much shame it only made things worse. Tears slipped down my cheeks, every part of this hurt. My body was in full revolt and I turned my head and looked at the door. We were fifteen minutes into the hour class. I kept trying to stop the tears escaping down my face. They mixed with the sweat, I told myself at least no one would know I was crying like an idiot. I looked at the door again. I could leave. I could get up and just leave. But I kept hearing the instructor say, "Breathe. Remember to breathe. More important than any pose, more important than any desire you may have right now, the most important thing you can do is breathe."

So I kept taking in deep breaths. And in a moment of silence I remembered something one of my great teachers, Ted Andrews, told me. He said to me once, "MaryKate, don't ever fear tears, you cry when you are closest to spirit."

And I knew I wasn't alone. It didn't matter what one other person in that room thought. Even though I knew no one was laughing at me, I had to move through every moment of shame I have felt in this body. Every fear of being humiliated that I've struggled with (which is why I don't go and sing karaoke), every thought that 'if I just hadn't let myself get so fat, I wouldn't be having these problems right now' and other thoughts that are actually too embarrassing to write here. But they all came flooding at me a million miles a second. From the depth of my own struggle I heard the instructor say, "Gently switch sides and let's hold that pose with the other leg under you."

My leg wasn't under me. It was flailed to the left of me and looked like my knee was broken and my leg needed surgery. But I stopped eyeing the door. I kept breathing. I let every moment of shame and fear pour out of me and I let that room hold it. I let it go. I kept breathing. I kept crying. But the tears no longer felt like humiliation - they felt like release. I realized how much shame and embarrassment I have held in my body for so long, I realized how unkind I have been to myself. How I have punished myself for not being beautiful, for not even allowing myself to think I was attractive. How long I have blamed my body for failing me. And the tears fell and I moved on to the next pose. 

The rest of the hour passed uneventfully. Occasionally, I felt shame rise to the surface, but this time it was met with compassion. Compassion for allowing myself to believe such negative thoughts about who I am, and worse, for letting others in my life reinforce those ideas. Over and over during yoga tonight I just let it all go. I reminded myself that I am worthy of so much more than I believed in the past. And while the rest of the hour wasn't easy, I just kept breathing and releasing.

When the hour was over, my friend asked me how it went. I was still so emotional... so on the edge of everything tumbling out. I told her it was good...  and that it was confronting. She smiled and seemed to understand.

I walked up to the front desk and the instructor was there. He asked me how it went, and I said, again, it was confronting. He smiled and talked about how it can be hard the first time trying yoga and I nodded unable to really respond. He kept talking and I sort of heard what he said, but there was a man sitting next to the front desk with the bluest eyes I have ever seen... and I have really blue eyes. And he just sat there and smiled at me. It was the warmest, kindest smile I think I have ever seen. His eyes never wavered. He just smiled and looked at me, into me I suppose. I felt so... 'okay'. I felt like there was a message in his eyes. He didn't say a word to me, he just held my space and honored where I was without ever saying anything. He hadn't been in the class, I'm sure he was waiting for the next class to begin. Honestly? At this point I'm not even sure there was really someone sitting there. 

As I walked out of the building, I said to my friend, "So, Thursday night?" She laughed and reminded me I am going to the Peter Gabriel/Sting concert. I smiled and we agreed to either go again on Saturday or next week. But I knew I would be back - because much like sushi, I may not like it in its raw form, but I have learned that there are types of sushi I can eat that I do enjoy. And tonight, as frustrated and embarrassed as I felt, I knew that the only way to change my experience with myself and with yoga was to push through it and go back.

So, here's to not giving up. To going back. To pushing past the past and breathing into the future.