Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s what you learn on the way down.
– Jigar Gor
I almost skipped yoga Saturday morning because I was feeling lazy and I wanted to stay cuddled on my couch, with my puppy and my coffee. I was also downright SCARED to take my first 2019 class because it’s been more than 6 weeks since I’d dedicated myself to my practice. “Practice” being the yogi term for putting your feet to the mat because it is seen as more of a ritual. More of an experience than just heading to the gym and pumping iron. On the mat you face yourself, your process, and even sometimes your worst fears again and again and again. SO, it’s not just yoga. It’s a yoga practice.
Let’s talk about where I started vs where I am now. When I first started doing yoga again, I was 360 pounds and I could barely hold myself up in a downward dog for more than 10 seconds without feeling like my wrists were going to break. Kneeling down or squatting caused me excruciating pain in my knees and sitting with my legs crossed was nearly impossible because I just had too much body mass to allow me to sit this way and remain comfortable. Today I am able to do these things with much more ease. Partly because I’m smaller and stronger which certainly helps. My knees are still a little creaky every now and then but boy have I come a long way! I can now do “DANCER” without having to prop my leg on a wall and I can actually lift my leg and get some air for “HALF SPLITS” now. I know right? AMAZE.
Even before I started going to classes I romanticized about what it meant to be a yogi. I wanted to wear cute, skimpy, matchy-matchy outfits and rock my six pack in a sports bra. I wanted to bounce around peacefully while twisting my body like a pretzel into postures only the best of the best can execute. However, I thought that in order to practice yoga or begin practicing yoga, that one had to already be good at yoga. By GOOD, of course, I mean PERFECT. You know, like you had to be able to do every move just like the instructor, you had to be able to balance on your head and hold your body in the air and do back flips and whatever. But because of these unmeetable expectations of perfection, I stayed away, and let’s be honest…not all yogi’s and yoga studios are welcoming to newcomers. Or so I thought.
I have been going to Nirvana Yoga for over two years now and as soon as I walked in the door I felt at home. I immediately saw beautiful hardwood floors, a quaint little kitchen with water and tea, and a beautiful Buddha statue with a giant metallic lotus flower painted on the wall. The people coming for class range from early 20’s to late 50’s. Some are chiseled yogi’s with slim lean bodies and toned muscles and some look me, a little bigger and softer in the middle. Since finding Nirvana Yoga I now feel stronger, healthier, or more flexible and I finally feel OK to be myself … wherever I’m at that day.
But this Saturday, this time, I was afraid my body would FAIL me and these fears almost kept me away entirely. I pushed myself because I knew I needed to get back into the routine. I fought through my negative thoughts, my need to rebel, and I went. The studio itself is is built into an old house in Grant Park so to get to the studio I have to climb this massive flight of stairs making me feel like I already did my work out before class even starts. I was welcomed with a warm smile and a we’ve missed you so much. Then I started seeing people that I know and it reminded me that all this, this meaning navigating health and wellness, is easier with a community. For me, it’s easier done with others than done alone. These people helped me push through. Then the little victories helped me stay. I was able to hold myself up, I was steady, I was stable. In short, my body surprised me and I was able to access some ambition I didn’t have when I was getting in the car and leaving the comfort of my couch and the Kardashians. I remembered that I enjoy this. Yoga has taught me to be present, it has helped me learn to laser focus, it’s taught be be in the the moment and to let go when the moment has passed. I’m learning that my success and my progress should be measured against ME and ONLY ME.
See yoga has a way of sneaking little life lessons in on you without you even realizing it. During this class, that I struggled to get to, I learned that my body is still strong and I, much like me my muscles, am resilient. My favorite yoga instructor Jaimee (@jaimeeratliff) slayed her Hip Hop Yoga class, like always. She is so real about being perfectly imperfect and seeking continuous improvement in her own life and it naturally spills over into how to she runs her class and the energy and vibe during those 75 minutes. I even got an extra special treat … A mini reunion with a few of my fellow BALI BABES who were visiting for the weekend and came to class.
As much as I hate to admit this, physically moving my body and working out, make me feel good mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s not only good for my mind and my body but it also feeds my soul. I have had to learn to let go of my need to control everything and my need to always be perfect and just SHOW UP. Eyes forward. Heart open. Feet to the mat. NAMASTE.
Love, Lashes and Lipstick,