My first taste of yoga came when I was living half a life in Toronto, Canada. I had just turned 30 and it didn’t take me long for me to fall in love with the city or the person who called Toronto home. Every few weeks I would make the trip and to this day I still feel like I have a seat saved at my favorite pub on the Danforth. Toronto still feels like home in many ways.
The yoga studio was in the heart of downtown, from the top floor you could see the action of city life in fierce full force rapid fire below you, but in the stillness of this sacred space it remained oddly calm. While intrigued by it all, no matter how warm the welcome to join the amazing group of people, I could not let myself belong. I was a morbidly obese woman who could barely tie her shoes, what business did I have pretending I had a place among those who had not destroyed their bodies with consumption, gluttony and self loathing.
Fast forward to several weeks ago when Amy asked me to join her for a class in one of the premier yoga studios in downtown Cincinnati, and while I have taken a few yoga classes at my gym and a private session from Jonesy who is working on her certification this was the real deal and the thought of it terrified me. Work schedules and conflicts made it easy to put on the back burner for a few weeks but come Monday I decided it was time to just take one small step and try. We dodged the patches of ice, snow and slush making our way to the stairs that would take us up to the The Yoga Bar, where I would come face to face with my own karma. Amy knew I was scared and sweetly said to me “we can leave at any moment if you need to”… and I knew she meant it, which is why I trusted her enough to find myself climbing up to the entrance of the studio.
The room was buzzing with people as we gathered our mats, grabbed a sealed glass jar of spring water and a small block that looked like a brick, then we snagged a spot at the very back of the room. The teacher was warm and inviting, her words floated all around us like bubbles blown in the sun on a bright summer morning. I could feel myself begin to relax and let my guard down which was a bit terrifying in itself. We were practicing Yin yoga, which concentrates on holding poses for a longer period of time. I was feeling good, strong and confident as I move from one form to the next concentrating on nothing more but breathing and moving and then it happens. The small brick that is supposed to slide under our backsides to help support the next pose is not exactly working for me…(think of a lima bean trying to support a bean bag chair). I immediately feel the tension snake up through my legs, torso and into my chest so that soon my whole body is rigid and I realize I am holding my breath. I gulp for air, close my eyes and just hope it ends soon which is how I made it through so many years of walking around as a super morbidly obese person at over 600lbs. I am in self defense mode now, and I am painfully aware of how awful this feels.
I am not even sure when it happened but suddenly she is there beside me softly whispering, “sit up for me and just roll in to your left” before I know it the she has replaced the brick with an oblong pillow then she gently touches my back just below my shoulder blades and I sink back into position as she asks me if that feels better. Overwhelmed by her kindness in that simple gesture, I mutter “it does, thank you”. I taste the salty tears that have begun falling which remain with me through much of the class. I weep because of her kindness in comforting me, I weep because I can in fact move my body with ease now, feeling strong and even at times a wee bit beautiful in my own skin which is a far cry from the days of feeling unworthy and apologetic at every turn in my life. As we lie still in the final moments of class I am grateful for it all. Grateful for my body though riddled with imperfection, scars and flaws, reminders of pain and darkness, this body is also filled with hope, love and most importantly self forgiveness.
Looking forward to next Monday and making this part of my weekly ritual as I continue the journey.
Namaste is commonly translated as: “the divine light in me honors the divine light in you”….. and I do. Thank you all for reading and continuing to support the dog-lbs project.