A year ago, at the beginning of October 2015, I walked in to my first yoga class full to the brim with nervous trepidation. Two or three other people were already there, sitting comfortably on their mats. They each greeted me with a gentle smile. The teacher, Claire, welcomed me warmly and I sat, cross-legged, with tense shoulders and shallow breathing, not really knowing what on earth to expect.
She had only just set up the business. As an introvert, attending a class of any kind with people I don’t know is my idea of hell. But something deep inside me told me that the time was right, that I needed to be there and that this was going to be one of the things that would help me heal my heart after losing my Dad eight months earlier.
I didn’t know my downward dog from my cobra.
An hour later I’d fallen in love.
The class was hard. I couldn’t keep up, had no idea what these poses were that Claire was calling out and my fitness was much weaker than I’d anticipated. But I loved every second of it and knew I’d be back for more.
Now, a year on, my once-a-week yoga class is a non-negotiable in my diary. Nothing gets in the way of it (apart from a sick child or a school event) and I make the most of every minute that I’m there. It’s my me-time. My sanity-saver. My mental and physical workout.
My weight hasn’t changed and neither has my body shape – it wasn’t about that in the first place and I’m not doing it for that now either. I’ve battled with my body so much over the years but there is no fight when I go to yoga. The struggle disappears and my relationship with my body becomes more of a dance. A partnership. We negotiate with each other – I gently coax my body into bends and twists and balances and it softens and yields and allows me to stretch and move in ways that I haven’t since I was a little girl at gymnastics club. It’s delicious. My relationship with my body is different now even outside of yoga – now I marvel at what it can do. At what I can do. I look back and am amazed at what we’ve done in the past, and wonder at what challenges we’ll accept in the future. I’m starting to see my body and I as a ‘we’ now, instead of two separate things.
And as my body and I have become more comfortable with each other, knowing each other’s limits and learning how to push and stretch each other a little bit further with each class, I’ve been able to try more and more challenging and difficult poses. I have ‘yoga goals’ like everyone else who practices, and I know that one day I’ll reach them. I also know that it will take time – my teacher’s favourite saying is “Yoga practice, not yoga perfect”.
I’m getting more and more ok at sitting with the discomfort: The muscles complaining as they stretch further than they have before; the voice in my head listing all the things I’m doing wrong, all the things I could be doing better, all the mistakes I’ve ever made; and the feelings threatening to overwhelm as I finally manage to shush the voice and find the quiet.
I’ve let myself cry on the mat twice. Once discreetly, once openly sobbing as it all got too much. Pre-yoga, crying in public would have horrified me. I don’t even let my husband see me cry if I can help it. But now I am better able to accept that I feel sad, let myself feel sad and then move on.
It’s really hard to explain and describe how much of a difference yoga has made to my life. To me. It probably sounds over-dramatic to those who haven’t experienced it, but it really and truly has been life-changing in the most subtle of ways. I feel more resilient. Stronger. Calmer. More ok just being me. More accepting of myself and more at peace with the things that happen because I know that the only thing that matters is how I choose to respond to them. Yoga helps me choose that response more carefully.
I have no doubt that yoga will continue to play a significant part in my life and I’m so very grateful to have found it, and my awesome teacher Claire, when I did.