A few years ago, during a particularly stressful time in my corporate suburban life, I, out of desperation, went to my very first yoga class. For my entire adult life I had wanted to do yoga. Though I was worried about whether or not I could do those back bends, twist my body into a pretzel or hold myself in a Downward Dog. I watched and tried to do a few classes online with little success. I was terrified as I walked into the studio for the first time. I have struggled with my weight since I was a teenager. My junior high and high school careers consisted mostly of reading, writing, hanging out with my friends and talking on the phone. The most exercise I did was in PE or taking long walks in the woods with my cousins or alone. I never played a sport. I think I was traumatized by having to wear athletic shorts in my 9th grade PE class….so much so that I haven’t put on a pair of shorts since then.
So when I decided to try yoga, I was looking for a way to ease my mind more than work my body. Though gaining some muscle and flexibility were certainly nice perks. I was completely surprised after my first class. My instructor was actually built a little like me. My daughter says it is “thick” which she swears is a compliment. But I grew up in a world where thin was better than thick. Enter a lifelong battle with my self esteem. I learned in my very first class that yoga could help ease my stress better than anything I had ever tried. I learned that each practice is your own and you get out of it what you put into it. I learned that you don’t have to do it perfectly and that nobody is judging you. I learned that all kinds of people love yoga and that it is the most accepting group of people you can be around. I went to several classes and even attended some meditation workshops. I fell in love with it. I even decide that someday I might want to teach yoga….not because I was so great at it, but because I found it so helpful in my life, that I wanted to share it with others who may feel as intimidated by it as I did.
But like many things, life gets busy, things change, you start a farm and a new life and you get off track and distracted. Over time, I did yoga at home some and I was fortunate for a short time, to have a local class I could attend at our friend’s shop here in town.
I even started looking into what it would take to get certified to be a teacher. But then came Covid and I once again found myself without the discipline to practice on my own.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, Melissa posted that she would be partnering with another instructor to offer a virtual certification to teach.
I told Steve about it and then proceeded to tell him all the reasons that I shouldn’t do it. It costs too much. It takes too much time. I haven’t practiced in a year. I’m out of shape. No one will want to participate. I wasn’t qualified to teach. In his usual way, he gently led me to the conclusion that I needed and I signed up.
It’s the single largest investment of time and money that I’ve made in myself and myself alone since college. I didnt have a plan for how I would make the return on my investment.
It’s the first time in my life that I don’t really have a plan or a path forward on a project. I’m truly just enjoying the process. It will take me about six months to be certified and I anticipate that it will take me a lifetime to truly learn the craft. I hope someday to offer classes at the farm (maybe even goat yoga) but I’m not allowing myself to plan…that’s a first for me, the pragmatist, the chronic planner. I have faith that God will lead me down the road I am meant to travel.
In my head, yoga was just a hobby. But a few weeks into my certification, I’ve learned that yoga is a lifestyle. “The word ‘Yoga‘ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’. As per Yogic scriptures the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body,” – Man and Nature
Like me, most people think that yoga is the physical practice but it’s not. That’s only a small portion of what the practice entails. It is a very spiritual and personal journey.
In my class, there are women from all walks of life….some with years of experience both practicing and teaching, some with limited experience and even some with physical limitations. We are united by a common goal to learn. There is no judgement. We are all committed to meeting each other where we are and supporting each other through the journey. It’s also amazing because technology allows us to share the experience across the globe. Half the class is in Germany and half of us are here in Arkansas.
It is stretching me (emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically) in ways I couldn’t have imagined. In my former life, I would get up and speak in front of hundreds of people. Sure I would get nervous, but i was in my element and felt I had earned my place. Those speaking engagements were nothing compared to this past weekend when I had to teach my first three minutes of warm-up stretches to my classmates. I studied and prepared for hours. I practiced so much that I could barely walk because my muscles were sore. Poor Steve had to endure me talking about everything I was working on for weeks. I sweated and for a few minutes during our class, I thought I might throw up. Y’all this was for a three minute warm up with a sequence of three simple poses.
I survived and was encouraged by my classmates and teachers. I was so proud of myself.
I don’t know what’s next on this journey. Each week, I have homework assignments so I’m looking forward to continuing my practice and to learning more about this beautiful process.
I’m grateful that my husband encouraged me to step out and try something completely outside of my comfort zone, something that I never dreamed I could do because I didn’t have the right body type or capability.
I would appreciate your kind thoughts as I continue down this path. I would also encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone. Stretch a little. Do that thing you’ve been putting off or that you feel like you’re not ready to do. Don’t wait for the right time. It may never come.
My mother gave me a plaque several years ago that says, “As you walk to the edge of all of the light you have and you must step out into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen: There will be something solid for you to stand upon, or you will be taught how to fly.”
I keep this in the window beside me in the room where I’m taking my class to remind me that I can accomplish whatever I choose. I just have to have a little faith.
I have been writing this for weeks in my head and tonight before bed, started putting it on paper. I was awakened at 2 am and felt the need to finish it. So I’ll leave you with these random 2 am thoughts:
Chase your dreams and encourage others. Step outside of your head and follow your heart. Listen to your encouragers. Sometimes they know you better than you know yourself. Seek out things that bring you joy and stretch you. You don’t have to do something perfectly to share it with others. Give yourself permission to enjoy the journey without a solid plan.
We always end our yoga classes using the word “Namaste”. There is a divine light in each of us and the light in me honors the light in you. Find your light and share it. Namaste.