Yoga has officially become, not only part of my life, but part of my soul for exactly one year. On February 16, 2012 I made a decision to take my first Bikram yoga class. Here is what I wanted.
I’ve never truly committed to anything physical nor have I really had the desire to invest the kind of time and energy that it took to really progress at any physical activity. I would drive to the train station in the morning and look wondrously at the jogger, at 6 am, all bundled up with a far off look in their eye as some sort of “other-wordly” phenomenon. There were “those people” and then “regular people” like me. I had myself all figured out. I just wasn’t hard-wired to be “that person.” I used motherhood as a badge of honor in being “too busy” for those kinds of endeavors. The truth is, even as a single twenty-something, I just didn’t feel more than a passing enthusiasm when I stepped inside of a gym.
I am not overweight, but one year ago I decided that I’d like to “get fit” and make my 1,000th attempt at a physical commitment. I was smoking a lot at the time, and felt easily winded as I climbed stairs. If my train had pulled into the station one minute early causing the unfortunate event that I actually had to run, it would take about 20 minutes for the burning sensation to escape my chest. Bikram yoga seemed like an interesting endeavor. I thought it must burn a lot of calories, but it is yoga after all so I could probably manage without collapsing. If nothing else, my friend and I could have a laugh at our own clumsiness.
I must admit that I had absolutely no idea what this one class would come to mean to me or what I would uncover about myself in the year to come.
Here Is What I Discovered
In the past year, I’ve fallen in love. I’ve learned to love and respect myself. Not a fleeting fling like I’d experienced in the past, but an enduring love.
This Love Is Passionate
I can be passionate about yoga without losing myself. In fact, my passion for this practice has helped me move closer to myself- my higher self. This changes every day… every moment. The space that I hold on my mat reminds me of that with each session. I have committed to this practice because it has awakened a passion inside of me, an aspiration that I’ve never experienced before- to be better than I was yesterday. If that is not possible, I have the aspiration to be better than I was a moment ago. On my mat, I have the passion to get right back into the posture I just fell out of, but mostly the passion to keep coming back to my practice. I crave it. If I have a cold, a party to go to, or my life gets busier than usual one week- I sit and actually calculate how I’ll get my yoga fix. I no longer look at the 6 am runner in the same way. Now I smile and think, “I get you.” I’ve never been passionate about my… self before.
This Love Is Enduring
Yoga always reminds me, the second I root myself down on my mat, the teachable moment in the present, wherever my mind and body happen to be. Its wisdom perseveres whether I’m cranky, powerful, beaming, or down on myself. If life takes me away from yoga for a few days longer than I’d like, when I return to it, in an instant, I am offered a fresh perspective about myself in the present moment. It allows me to check in with myself in the now. Life is so busy. I am always planning ahead, and trying to head off any complications in advance. The enduring desire to practice this physical and spiritual discipline allows me to stay present and active in my own progress. My love of yoga has taught me how to be present, be still, and endure a little discomfort in order to learn more about myself.
This Love Is Awakening
Yoga has taught me that I am the question and the answer to every inquiry; it is my own thoughts that hinder me, not my body. It has awakened me to my own potential, as well as, my self imposed thoughts that can block that potential. It has awakened me to the reality that there are parts of myself that exist, parts that I never knew of because I couldn’t allow myself to tap into a deeper journey within. I have come alive because I’ve allowed my vision to expand… the vision of myself. I see myself with different eyes. I am not a busy working mom that is unfortunately addicted to cigarettes and just doesn’t have “that kind of time“. I am strong. I am healthy. I deserve to be, and I want to be. I am awake.
This Love Is Humbling
It is never pompous. Every single session humbles me in a new way, and is what keeps me coming back to yoga. There’s always more to learn. I no longer associate struggle with shame. Yoga has taught me that feeling humbled does not have to mean feeling shameful. It is just a gauge of where I am right now, in the moment. The next class may find me beaming with pride in the same posture that humbled me yesterday. This cycle truly embodies the beauty of humility.
This Love Is Kind
When I fall, a natural side effect of my practice is the determination to get back into the posture. I’m naturally kinder to myself and have the wisdom that I can always try again. I’ve let go of what I think I should be, or where I think I should be in my practice after one year. I now set my own goals based on where I am at a given point. My threshold always fluctuates, and I no longer let these fluctuations define me. I do not attach unhealthy labels to myself as “failure” or just “not good at ____” I have learned that self-love is practiced by accepting myself in moments of struggle.
Most Of All, This Love Is Free
I have felt a tremendous sense of freedom in this past year. I am free from all of the misconceptions that I had about myself, and all of my unhealthy inner dialogue has ceased. “I just don’t have time for a 90 minute class multiple times a week. I am a working mother. I just can’t. I’m getting older. I’m not 25 years old. My body isn’t meant for yoga anymore. “
I feel free of all of these concepts that I knew to be “truths” I feel free of these notions of who I think I am. I feel I’ve been set free from the prison that I’ve created in my mind that tells me that I need some outside force, validation, or other being to “make me” happy. I would be lying if I said I don’t visit that prison from time to time, but I do not live there anymore. When I began uncovering that my own mental and physical determination is in fact strong, by committing to myself- only then did I realize that this is where my happiness lies; inside myself.
I am ever changing, and always evolving. My practice is a direct result of my own growth, stagnation, or evolution. I am not fixed. I am fluid.
I am eternally grateful to the practice and wisdom of yoga for showing me that self-love is not selfish love. This new commitment to myself, as well as, this new belief system about who I am has slowly infiltrated its way into my being and striped away my self-doubt. In the past year I feel I have expanded as a human being and taken this journey to a deeper level. I’ve let go of so much fear and have truly been living more with intention and less from habit.
I’ve always loved the beautiful works of the Persian poet, Rumi. The divine meaning of this quotation now resonates with me at a much deeper level.
“What you seek is seeking you.” Rumi
I didn’t find what I was looking for one year ago. For that, I am grateful.