When I first started doing yoga nearly two years ago, here's how and why I started my journey. A new yoga studio opened in my town and they offered a groupon that was, as groupons are, a ridiculously good deal for some cheap yoga. So I bought it! And then didn't go to yoga for about 6 months. But continued to wear yoga pants just in case. You see, I have been medically diagnosed with a severe allergy to exercise. Okay not really but the truth is, I. HATE. EXERCISE. Like truly people, as a writer I can't even think of the words to express how much I hate it. Over the course of my life I have joined many a gym, taken many a class, purchased countless DVD's, joined group after group after group... none of it changes the fact that I. HATE. EXERCISE. It helps greatly that somehow, someway, God gave me the absolute perfect blend of genetics from my parents and I can almost eat whatever I want and not gain as much weight as I probably should. (Note: those days are coming to a rapid end now that I'm in my 40's) My point is, exercise was never a true necessity to me.
In January of 2014 I honestly got sick of hearing myself complain about my body. I was lumpy and thick in all the wrong places. I was sluggish all the time. My pants were like tourniquets and quite honestly I couldn't afford to go update my wardrobe to accommodate my new waist size. It started to consume my brain. I started to obsess. I began to hear myself talking about it, calling myself fat, shaming myself in ways I never had before. I actually began to realize that if I was sick of hearing it come out of my own mouth, I must be really bringing down the people around me, too.
So in the dead of winter I decided to use that groupon. I drove to the yoga studio (which I had never been in a "real" yoga studio before) full of anxiety. I didn't have fancy yoga wear, I didn't have an awesome yoga mat, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I didn't even know what "vinyasa" was. I expected to walk into a class full of yogis who were bending their bodies into noodle like shapes and I knew I wouldn't even be able to touch my toes. And still I was called, I was drawn to this place.
I rolled out my cheap yoga mat on the floor and tried to adhere to the etiquette of a yoga studio. As I sat quietly on my mat and waited for the instructor, a sense of calm started to come over me. I looked around at other people in the room and realized that they were all just like me. This was a judgement free zone. I knew this intuitively in my bones. I closed my eyes and settled into my mat and told myself that just beginning, just being here was enough.
The instructor started to speak, and began to tell us to focus on our breath. Until that moment, I am not even sure I was breathing at all. I mean, in my life. I think after my divorce and subsequent relationship heartbreaks I had just begun to hold my breath, and I never really let it go. As I began to breathe, I started to relax and settle in.
That's when shit got real.
The instructor then told us to set an intention for our practice at which point I began to panic. I didn't really even understand the concept of what she was saying. Yes of course I know what an "intention" is but I didn't really understand its relationship to what was about to happen on my mat. And in my panic the word that came to mind was ....
And that became my intention for my yoga practice. Survive. Just get your butt to the studio, get on the mat, and whatever the hell happens in the next hour, survive it. You don't have to get better, you just have to get through it. I didn't care if I couldn't touch my toes, or bend like a pretzel or do a perfect wheel or even land in tree some nights. What was important is that I was getting there and I was doing it. Whatever it looked like. I began to like this yoga thing. I started to feel better, not just in my body but in my mind. So I kept going. And kept going, and kept going. Until at one point I was going 3-4 times per week and it still wasn't enough. My body began to crave it, but even more, my mind and heart craved the peace I was able to achieve on my mat.
This crazy thing began to happen. There was a shift. I never saw it, I never recognized it, I never felt it coming, I never even really knew it was there. But without even trying, in all of my "surviving" I began to......
I could touch my toes. I could do a full wheel, I could do eagle pose, albeit only sometimes. The important thing was that I was okay that I could only do it sometimes. I found gratitude that I could do it at all. I got into crow..... I did a headstand, I could achieve things in my body that I never knew it was capable of.
One night I came to practice and when the instructor told us to set our intention, the word thrive came into my head. Not survive. THRIVE.
And I never went back to "survive."
Doing yoga outside in AZ is a lot like "hot yoga" just sayin.
Look at me, I now have a fancy expensive yoga mat! Who cares??!! I still sweat like a beast and slide all over it and sometimes fall right off of it! I have fancy yoga clothes now too and they have made all the difference in my practice. Of course they haven't, they just absorb more sweat and make me comfortable. My practice is inside of me. No mat, no clothes, nothing can make a difference in that. My mindset is what determines my yoga practice.
And my mindset, is thrive.
To say that I feel gratitude for Illuminate Yoga and the entire staff there is just an understatement. shanti, shanti, shanti to each and every one of you that has taught me to thrive in more ways than you can imagine.