A few years ago I attended one of my mom's beginner yoga classes. She taught a basic positions class at the local Wellness Center, filled mostly with middle-aged soccer moms and gray-haired older ladies who were looking for a new way to occupy their time.
I struggled through the hour-long class, frustrated with the persistent coaching on my breathing. I tried to hold focus through mountain pose, warrior pose, and a dog that couldn't decide if it wanted to face upward or downward. My balance faltered as the hands slowly dragged around the face of the wall clock. I stared at the mirrored reflection of myself in the harsh light and wondered what in the heck I was doing there.
At one point my mom came up to me and whispered “you are the worst yogi I have ever seen.” She was half kidding, because that’s what we do, but there was a lot of truth there too. She commented that she could “see my mind racing” rather than staying focused on the art of relaxation. I spent the whole class trying to impress my mom on how flexible I could be (which is a cruel joke… because I am the least flexible person I know) and ended up making the entire hour miserable for myself. Yoga class number one. I failed- I just didn't get it.
Fast forward several years later: here I am in Portland, working in the restored, historical Pearl district, in an office in the Gadsby Building. One floor below me is a yoga studio named Yo Yo Yogi. Owned by a husband and wife duo, the yoga studio strives to be all-inclusive, welcoming all types of people at all levels of yoga practice. I have been wanting to get down and try a class, but always found an excuse not to. (For the most part, I stuck with the “I can’t touch my toes” excuse.)
Yesterday afternoon I mustered up the courage and tromped down the stairs to the studio. I informed the nice couple that I had been to yoga twice in my life, that I was completely lost in the art of posture, and would be attending a yoga class. They called me “sweetheart,” looked at me with a kindness and acceptance, and had me fill out a medical release form. You know, just in case.
Before I climbed in bed at 10:30pm last night I set my alarm for 5:15am. (Did I forget to mention that the yoga class was at 6:30 this morning?!). Throughout the night I woke up every. single. hour. I don’t know if it was anticipation, excitement, or fear that I would oversleep, but every time I woke up, I looked at the clock, counted the number of hours and minutes until I actually needed to get out of bed, then drifted back to sleep.
At 6:20 this morning I marched into the yoga studio, armed with my cheap, promotional product yoga mat. I spent the next hour bending and stretching, breathing and sighing, feeling the warmth of the candles burning on the built-in wall bookshelves and the heat radiating from inside me (yes, that is a nice way to say I was sweating). My teacher was gentle and inviting, encouraging the right amount of pressure and nurturing. She allowed me to open my mind, reach inside, and feel the Namaste. (Yes I just said that.)
As I transitioned throughout the class from high plank to low plank to downward facing dog, from boat pose to plow pose and back again, I quickly understood why people spend a pretty penny on yoga mats. I was slipping and sliding around my cheap yoga mat, hardly being able to keep my hands from slamming out from under me. (Now is where Ross will make a comment about my clammy hands and mom will talk about how I had chronic sweaty feet as a baby). But for some reason, I didn't care. I felt happy and content, and not bothered at all that the man across the room could do a standing heel stretch and I could barely balance on one leg. (Show off.)
As I quietly tip-toed out at the end of class (some people use the 15 minutes after class for a restorative power nap), I felt rejuvenated, alive, and hungry. In my free time today I did research on a refreshing, eco-friendly, “real” yoga mat. I picked out my color. And a matching towel. And I will start saving up my extra money to get it.
I think maybe yoga is for me after all.