I remember being a little girl and hearing my mom talk about yoga. It seemed like a very mysterious and beautiful exercise. She looked so peaceful when breathing deeply with her eyes closed, sitting cross-legged in the living room. I loved sitting there with her. As a result of these magical moments with my mother, the practice of yoga has always seemed sacred to me. Back in the day, as a recent college graduate living on my own in Alexandria, Virginia, I decided to enroll in a Hatha yoga class through the Community Education program. I loved it and since then I have attended yoga classes off and on and used videos to practice at home. But I didn’t move beyond a very surface, acquaintance-like relationship with yoga. We waved hello at each other in passing, but we never became real intimate.
Enter my Mind, Body, Spirit hat trick. Yoga was calling my name. Something told me yoga had the potential to help me on my journey, on my quest for inner peace and balance. I was a little apprehensive to jump right in though. I was definitely someone who tucked my mat into the deepest, darkest corner of the studio, took a deep breath, than wondered for the next 60 minutes, “am I doing this right?” while everyone around me seemed to move with ease and not a care in the world. I asked one of my most favorite yoga instructors, Lee Ann, if she would help me get started on my journey. We met for several weeks and discussed some of the many, many aspects of yoga. Studying yoga is fascinating. I find that yoga is indeed beautiful and sacred, but it is not mysterious as I had once thought. It is a science. I am in love with it now. We are becoming very intimate.
One of the first things I remember Lee Ann sharing with me was the symbolism of the forward fold. It’s all about letting go. Letting go has always been a challenge for me. Letting go of the expectations I had for my continued life with my dad by my side, that’s a biggie. Of course, that would take some time. But in the immediate future, I was often (okay, almost always) bogged down by obsessive mind-chatter. As I drove around town, I wondered if I had said the right thing to my friend when she asked for advice? I agonized over whether or not I bought the right dish soap. I couldn’t remember, did I pack a snack for my child? And if so, was it nutritious? Would he have time to eat it? Would the other kids laugh at it? Then, I would think, oh crap, I should have just cut up an apple. Why wouldn’t I just give him fruit for a snack? I knew that he didn’t even really care for Teddy Grahams. I would wonder, what kind of mother am I? And finally, I would decide that I probably never should have had children… Good God! I needed help. This pattern of crazy making self-talk and not being able to move past it was not serving me well.
Oddly enough, another not so fond memory from my girlhood was me sitting in gym class. Mrs. Price would yell out, “Pike positionnn!” And everyone around me would sit up nice and tall with their legs straight out in front of them. As we were directed to reach for our toes, and everyone did as they were told, I could barely reach past my knees. I was stuck, I didn’t fold forward. I’m not kidding. So the whole resistance to letting go thing, I’ve been dealing with it for a very long time. And I felt like a fool in gym class.
I told Lee Ann I had never been able to do a forward fold. Now, there is something to be said for bone structure in yoga. We’re not all built the same so we don’t all move in the same ways, it’s that simple. Lee Ann assured me there could be modifications. It’s been a few months now and a yoga miracle has taken place. First, I plop my mat anywhere, close my eyes, breathe, and sometimes forget that there are other people in the room with me. I can focus inward (cue angels singing from heaven above)! Second, so I’m not quite a nose-to-the-knee forward folder, but I can sit up straight and I can reach for my toes and sometimes, I actually touch them! And third, I am learning to let go! When the critical crazy lady in my head pipes in with her second-guessing and obsessing, I can now say, “Oh Honey, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you care, but I’m good on my own now.” And she actually leaves. Sometimes she might even add an encouraging word on her way out.
I am amazed by the ways in which the connection between my mind, body, and spirit manifests itself through my yoga practice. I am not exaggerating when I say that with each inch that I move toward my toes (and I have very long legs), I can literally feel myself letting go. It’s as if every cell in my body joins a chorus in mind to sing, “I surrender!” It’s all very blissful. There is so much more to it too. I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of my yoga practice and that, in and of itself, is invigorating. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do a forward fold.