When I started yoga

About six years ago, before Thea was born, I started doing yoga regularly.  I had always been a runner but running all of the time was starting to hurt my knees and I needed an alternative.  I began going to a yoga studio near my home but all of those years of tightening my body through miles of running made stretching very difficult.  I was nowhere near touching my toes.  Fast forward to 2018, and I wish this was the part of the story where I tell you that now I am amazing in yoga class- that I can get into all kinds of crazy twisty positions but that’s not the case.  I’m really bad at yoga…still.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made progress.  My toes are now reachable and I’m pretty proud of my headstand but yoga is still a struggle.  Why do I deal with this struggle?  Because I’ve never done anything that made my body and my mind feel so good.  I learned how to really relax in yoga class.  When I tried my first hot yoga class, it was all I could do to not run out of the room screaming!  Instead, I learned to sit in the uncomfortable room and relax and breathe and be okay with being uncomfortable.  The reward after class was completely worth it. 
In last week’s class, I stretched into standing bow pose attempting to put the perfect amount of effort into my balance and strength while still relaxing the muscles I wasn’t using.  I was feeling pretty good about myself until the teacher walked over and said, “Veronica, I see that you are stressed all the way down to your toes.”  I looked down.  My toes were clenching with the effort of holding the pose.  Oops.  I concentrated on relaxing them while still staying in balance.  The teacher let out a loud, exaggerated long breath.  Oh yeah.  Remember to breathe too. 
The power classes I take on Tuesdays really messes with my mind.  My body is made for running, not for stretching.  I am not very muscular and though I’ve built up strength, I still have a long way to go.  My mind immediately begins to attack as soon as the class starts.  I have to modify almost every pose he teaches us and most of the people in the class can do some awesome poses on their yoga mat.  My mind screams, the old lady over there is more flexible that you!  I’ve learned to ignore everything that my mind is saying.  I don’t even try to argue with it.  I just keep showing up to class.  Tonight, the class ends after a long series of shoulder poses and the teacher wishes us good night.  “Enjoy your new shoulders!” he says as we all leave.  And I really, really do. 
I think maybe, looking back, yoga helped me prepare in so many ways for becoming Thea’s mother.  When I began doing yoga all those years ago, I was trying to take care of my body.  I never imagined the significant impact it would have on my mind.  Through yoga, I learned to take my thoughts less seriously, to sit still and breathe through the uncomfortable moments, to show up for people and events that are important to me even when I don't feel good enough, and to persist even when I’m feeling unsure. 
Some days, I survive because I know not to take all of my thoughts seriously.  There is so much fear about Thea’s future and the future of our family but when my mind goes there I can’t enjoy anything about our lives right now.  Right now we are here- healthy and happy.  I don’t want to miss out on this time because of some future time where it may not be true.  I don’t have to follow these fearful thoughts.  In fact, they are not useful at all. 
I believe that sitting in a hot, uncomfortable room helped me sit through long uncomfortable hospital stays, long waits for a diagnosis, and long days of not knowing whether my daughter would come back to us- just breathing.  I also think that sitting in the discomfort made me strong enough to sit with others through their dark times.  I am a better listener, a better friend, and I’m more confident that pain comes and goes and the bad days don't last forever. 
Today, Thea takes yoga classes as well.  In fact, as I type, she is sitting on her mat practicing sun salutations and breathing exercises with her teacher.  I hope that it will not only strengthen her body but her mind as well.  Sometimes, at home, we get on our mats together to practice and she takes a long, exaggerated breath, and suddenly I remember to breathe too. 

Thea in yoga class.


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