it usually begins the same way.
i kickoff my flip flops and place my bag on top of them. i check my phone to make the ringer is off. i tuck my mat underneath my arm and walk to my spot. i am usually in the same spot, no matter what class i am in: the spot closest to the door. it reflects a little my anxiety about being in a class. i do not want to be in the front. i do not want people to see me. the supplies are across the room so i lay my mat out and walk across to get my things; two foam blocks, a strap and a mexican blanket. and i walk back.
my monday, wednesday, and friday classes have the same people in them every time. we know each other by name, mostly, although the other day i was in tabletop (on my hands and knees) and suddenly a card was slipped underneath me, with a pen attached. "miriam," whispered jerry, "sign the card for lily's birthday and pass it on." so some of us know birthdays, too (later he passed it on to louise while she was in savasana and scared her half to death).
it has been a year of yoga classes for me in only a couple weeks. a year. i started off going once a week, then, occasionally, twice. now, on a good week i'm going four times. it has become a passion for me.
a year ago i signed up because i'd just had my fourth baby in eight years. i had been pregnant, or holding small children for eight years. my body had rapidly gained weight with pregnancy, tried to lose weight, gain, lose, gain lose. i had nursed babies, held them, rocked them, carried them. my back was completely out of whack. my stomach muscles were stretched and hardly touching. my hips felt delicate, as if, with one small misstep they'd be completely wrecked. on top of that, i had four children and was experiencing, for the first time in my motherhood, a little bit of anxiety. all of those people needed me all day long to do a variety of things for them. the pressure was constant. it was enormous. i needed to do something.
so i called mina, a yoga teacher who owns a studio next to my in-laws house. i told her i'd like to take a class and asked for some information. she invited me to her stdio for a consultation. i told her what i need: something physical that will help my body come back to itself again, i want to feel strong, i told her. i want to feel like i can move my body and it will support me instead of worrying about throwing out my back. and i want my mind to be calm, instead of racing with the endless list of things i can do for my family, let it be still. let me focus. let me be calm.
mina said, "this is the right thing for you."
she was right. she was SO right.
every class begins the same way. not only with my shoes-down-bag-down-mat-down-supplies-fetched routine, but then i lay down on my mat, or i sit with my hands resting lightly on my knees and i think. i mentally scan my body for tension, anywhere i might need to stretch out, or be particularly gentle with. i think about what i did the day before with this body and how that might affect my practice today. and then i scan myself mentally. if my mind keeps trying to race ahead to where i will get home, hop in the shower, fold a load of laundry, make some phone calls... i stop it. if my mind keeps rewinding to what i did yesterday, how i said some things i regret, or didn't manage to get all my errands run...i stop it. i listen to what is happening in the room around me. if i am in my morning classes i am in a thin-walled old building high off the road. i can smell the trees. i can smell the horses. i can hear the birds. i think about the people in my life that i love. i pray to heavenly father that he will be mindful of them, that they will know he loves them. that i will be of some good that day.
and then, as april says at the beginning of every class she teaches: "let us begin our practice of yoga."
i have learned a thousand things in yoga. usually they are small. they are hardly ever specific to what is happening in that room (sometimes i learn that my hips aren't as facing out as i thought and i need to approach the pose in a completely different way) and always specific to my entire life. like when nancy had us hold utkatasana, chair pose, for what seemed like an eternity and as we stood there shaking and teetering and biting our lips and holding our breaths and then remembering to breathe and letting everything out in one big whoosh and sucking it back in through our teeth, she reminded us that we all have to go through hard things in life. that this chair pose is just like a trial in life and what, she asked, gets us through the hard times? what do we fall back on when we think we can't hold this pose for another moment? and then, just before she released us into balasana, child's pose, she reminded us that just as this chair pose only lasted a moment in the grand scheme of things, so do our trials. and as i lay there, my forehead touching my mat, my breath returning to normal, i tried to commit the lesson to memory. next time i find myself teetering and forgetting to breathe, i'm going to remember that this pose, this moment, is only temporary and soon i'll be able to rest.