We’ve all been there. You wake up in the morning and feel somewhat stiff and sore. The Flu? A cold coming on? Some kind of illness that you’re sure will keep you from leaving your bedroom all day, let alone your home. Your mind starts to clear from the hazy slumber you just woke up from and then you remember. YOGA!!
I was going to become a yoga guru in the new year. My resolution – become more in tuned with my body while nourishing it through the ancient art of yoga. Great idea? Yes, I thought so!
In my mind, Yoga was stretching and a light, relaxing form of exercise. I could wear something fashionable and cute and not even break a sweat while getting into amazingly sculpted shape. It would benefit both my mind and body. And, my friend and I could not wait to get started. One of my bestie’s and I signed up for a 10 week beginners yoga course. It was all set for Saturday mornings. Ten in a row. We’d be fit and fabulous in no time at all.
We agreed to start the first Saturday of the New Year. Oops. That was Superbowl weekend. OK, we’d start the 2nd weekend. After all, what was one more weekend of indulgence after a long holiday season with no regard to nutrition or health whatsoever?
So off I went on the designated start day. I drove to the trendy yoga studio, feeling quite smug, looking around at the other drivers on the road at this early morning hour on a weekend. I wondered where they were going. Well, they weren’t going to yoga like I was. Ha! One point for me!
I walked in with my fancy, new, Costco discount yoga mat slung around my back like all the young girls I saw. I was ready to get my Yoga on. I had beat my friend to the class so I signed in with the bright pen that was decorated with a big daisy on the end of it. Very groovy! I turned and headed towards the sheer fabric panels that I saw hanging from the ceiling. They acted as a divider between the front reception area and the actual studio. I walked through them and entered the studio area.
Looking around, I noticed that the room was not as big as I imagined it would be. It was actually a little tight on space. There were yoga mats laying all over the place in random order. The air smelled warm and damp from the previous class that had just got done. I turned towards the back of the room and found a space in the corner of the crowded room. I unrolled my mat and plopped down on it. I saved the space next to me for my friend who had still not arrived. Everyone around me was stretching and warming up. I decided to do the same. The girl next to me was sitting crossed legged and bending over her thighs. She was folded almost in half, so low that her forehead almost touched the ground. OK! I’ll do that, too. I mimicked my neighbors position and tried to bend down. I didn’t get very far. I don’t even think I got halfway down. I was stuck in an almost 90 Degree angle. I used to be so flexible. When did this happen?
I heard my friend’s voice as she entered the studio and waved her over to me. We were next to each other on our mats, looking around at all the others bending their lithe figures this way and that. We decided to just chat about how great we looked in our new workout gear until the instructor got started. Don’t we look great?! Yes, we do!
The instructor walked in, dimmed the lights low and got started. The people all around me had their socks off to prevent slippage. I kept mine on. I had not thought ahead. If I took my socks off everyone would see my 2 month old pedicure that had grown out almost midway to the tips of my toes. It was chipping and peeling. Who knew anyone besides my hubby would be seeing my toes during the snowy, winter months? Mental note: get pedicure before next class.
We warmed up with a few easy poses. OK! simple. I could handle this. No sweat! But after about 10 minutes, things started to get a bit sticky. We were bending ourselves in all kind of unnatural positions. We were doing planks. And, doing Ab work. My abs had not had a relationship with an exercise, well, since I had my kids 20 years earlier. I was starting to sweat. I could see the perspiration droplets starting to show through my new, trendy workout gear. The instructor had earlier told us to work with our eyes closed and at our own pace. I opened mine and peeked over at my friend. She was dabbing the sweat off of her brow, too… dab dab dab.. The instructor caught me looking around the room and reiterated that nobody should worry about anybody else’s performance level. But how could I not notice and be amazed at the little skinny thing in front of me. She had her ankle behind her neck. Good Lord, It was like something straight out of Ripley’s Believe it or Not. I looked at my friend again and she was silently mouthing something to me…. these poses are humanly unnatural… I nodded and agreed. I could hear pops from different parts of my body and prayed that I wouldn’t throw anything out of joint.
After 55 minutes of putting our poor, out of shape bodies through torture and hell, we finally got to the cool down.
Ahhhh. Now this I could handle. Granted, we were just lying there sweaty on the mats – silently. Eyes closed, hands at our sides, palms facing upwards. My heartbeat began to return to normal. My sweating slowed down from a steady flow to a little drip. The instructors soothing voice washed over us. There was quiet music playing in the background, swirling around my brain. I had actually become relaxed. I had gone from challenging my body like it had not been challenged in a long time to extreme relaxation. All in a matter of five minutes. As the entire class lay there silently she made us aware of all of our senses. Moving from one muscle group to the next. It felt like heaven. In a way, it was spiritual. She told us to let our breathing return to normal. To concentrate only on going to a place in our hearts and mind that made us happy. A beach. A recent or long ago vacation. A memory. It could be anywhere. Or with anyone.
I was sitting on a large tourist bus in a seat next to my mom. We were perched up high over the road. Traveling through the countryside of Italy on our way to Rome. We were traveling with a choir group from one of my girlfriend’s church. She had invited us to come along. There were extra seats available. It was my Mom’s and My first trip to Italy. A place where we had both always wanted to go. And, we did. My mind remembered that the choir on the bus was singing. They were practicing the hymns and church songs that they were going to sing in Churches along the way. It was beautiful. My memory shifted over to my My mom and I looking out the window at the rolling hills of Tuscany. We saw tall trees all around us. Those tall, pine-like ones that are so familiar to the Italian region. The ones I had seen in books and magazines all of my life. The houses were different. Stucco with tiled roofs. There was livestock, mostly sheep, roaming around. Our bus chugged along silently through the countryside over the hills. It looked simple. And lovely. My mom and I were talking all along the way. We were sitting arm in arm. And, we were laughing. Remembering experiences from the night before in Florence. A restaurant that stayed opened for us during the traditional Italian siesta time. The opened bottle of Limoncello sitting on our table Bottle’s of Italian red wine. Our new friends sitting across from us. We did not know them before we boarded the plane in Chicago. Now? We were close with them. And, traveling across central Europe with them. A bond had been formed. It was soothing and it was the happy place that my heart had gone to for that moment…..
And then, suddenly, the instructor invaded my happy place. I was back in the present. With my dear yoga buddy next to me. We were told to sit in an upright position and show the sign of thankfulness. Hands held in front of you. In a praying position. She told us to take with us something good for the rest of the day. Something that will make us shine, inside and out. To remember why we had come in the first place. Why we had walked through the door. That we were there for a reason and not out of randomness. And, she was right.
We had made a pact to better our minds and body in the new year. And now that I had been through the challenges of the first class and the spirituality of the cool down, I knew this was the place for me. I wanted to come back again. And, again.