It was just over four years ago, in Boston. Rather than moving home to Missouri after my freshman year of college, I went to live with my sister in Beantown.
She dragged me to a Vinyasa class for beginners. She also had to drag me out 60 minutes later, after I’d collapsed in a pile of defeat on my mat. It was just…my feet! They were so far from my hands! And my shoulders — is that pop normal? Are my hips supposed to be this uneven? How the f*ck is that girl balancing on the tip of her nose like that?!
“Breathe,” the teacher said. “In and out,” she urged.
It was miserable. But it was also good for me, and at the time, I’d do just about anything purportedly “good for me” (which, ironically, is not good for you at all).
So, I went to yoga regularly for the rest of the summer. When I returned to college, I tried every Bikram, Vinyasa and Ashtanga studio within reasonable driving distance, pushing, pulling and jamming my body further into every pose. I’d find my head tucked under my arm and wrapped around my leg — red-faced from minimal oxygen — and would (smugly) think about how much I’d improved.
Then, I found a little studio that sat above a little grocery store and a yogi named Bonnie. She taught me to be kind to my body, to be gentle with my joints and forgiving with my failures. She taught me to hold, to relax my jaw, release my tension and stop competing with the mats next to me.
And, finally, Bonnie taught me to breathe — in and out, and in and out again — with my shoulders as much as my soul.
I swear I went every day.
Eventually, I graduated and moved from North Carolina to New York. I bid Bonnie, but not yoga, a very sad farewell. I’ve experimented with other teachers, new studios and a variety of styles since my arrival. It has been the most humbling of humbling journeys.
There are days that I jump into ‘crow’ and pop my legs back into ‘chaturanga’ like I’ve been doing it my whole life. There are also days when I break, lose focus, fall to my mat and just, you know, breathe.
It’s in those profoundly frustrating moments that I’m most aware of what yoga has taught me. Here’s what I’ve learned, and what you will learn, should you begin practicing yoga: Continue reading >>