Sunday, July 24, 2011

My short Yoga history, mistakes and all—Part I

I went very reluctantly to my first Yoga class when I was 43 years old, talked into it by a friend who was always interested in the latest exercise craze, which in those days, Yoga was becoming.  I'd never been athletic or coordinated and felt like my body was this "thing" which I fed, went to aerobics classes to keep in shape, and abused with too much food and drink and an over-the-top stress-level career.

The class was held in the teacher's living room, which (after getting lost trying to find the place and failing to talk my friend into skipping altogether), was filled with about six other women in various shapes and sizes.  I went to the back of the room to observe the others and the teacher and to hide my lack of experience and interest.  The teacher was a bit older than I and very pretty, so I gave her an "A" for being older and a "C" for being so pretty, meaning that I wasn't convinced I was going to like her, or Yoga, one bit.  

I don't remember now what asanas we did that night but I clearly remember the savasana/relaxation period.  There was something about the teacher's voice, the permission implied in lying down in a restful, inactive position, and the sheer overwhelming sense of nurturance that released my pent-up tears silently and anonymously into the Yoga mat.  I left the class "shaken and stirred"  by the intensity of my response and the magnitude of possibility that Yoga presented to me that night.

So I kept going back, once, and then twice a week, when my business travels allowed.  I took some Yoga classes while on the road in various cities around the world, exploring and discovering different styles and ways of teaching, but my first and deepest connection to Yoga was with the pretty lady in the middle-class living room of a suburban Southern California home. 

All along, I was exploring myself and discovering that Yoga filled a deep need---the need for a safe place to “just be”, where I didn't have a label from my career or family, didn't even have a history, where everything felt new and fresh and paradoxically, oh so familiar, like I was home, at last. The asanas of Yoga, the physical postures, even in the gentlest of classes, were challenging in a variety of ways---some because my body wasn't especially “bendy” and because of the extra weight I was carrying, and some because the postures mysteriously triggered emotions.   I'd move into plow pose/Halasana (lying down, feet touching the floor over my head) and seemingly out of nowhere, I 'd start crying. Usually no “story” would appear---no script from a traumatic childhood or recent incident with a co-worker---just tears, releasing, slipping off my face onto the increasingly "sticky" mat. This all felt...scary, felt good, felt cleansing, felt...essential.  

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