Toutes les opinions ne se valent pas, et il ne faut pas confondre l’éloquence d’une parole avec la justesse d’une pensée-
I used to describe my yoga “practice” as something to do when it was too cold or wet outside to go for a bike ride, better yet – Cleaning the garage. My practice this afternoon, in this moment … Is much different.
Some years ago at 8th Avenue Yoga in Omaha, I was kindly invited to attend a yoga for “beginners” workshop by a close and dear friend. This was a profound step for me personally. The instructor was kind, a caring bully you could say. I feared I wouldn’t measure up to Jeff’s standards and the rest of the class for that matter. I was dead nervous unrolling out my mat for the first time, as the fresh rubber smell wafted in the studio air, my heart pounding with anticipation of what was soon to come.
I tucked myself away in a back corner, near a set of blinds that were gently drawn back to let the morning sunlight pour in. Worrying about how my fellow classmates would see me as they walked into the warmly lit studio, I thought about how I should appear like I belonged, to seek their approval. My mind, fixed on me, and I was deeply shaken as we were asked to step to the top of our mats.
Before the workshop, I was exploring an increasing number of possible paths to seeking what I thought was perfection: Researching “mindfulness” … Self-confidence books, self-esteem courses, self-acceptance whatever, forgiveness from others, inner peace mantras and yoga “body” classes online. At each turn along this path, it was consistently suggested to me that I was living my life in the wrong way. I needed to do this, in order to became that.
Fondly remembering my first class, I recall not being open to the idea that I was “okay” and that only I know what is best for me. I learned, slowly, over the years that it’s perfectly fine to have flaws, that it’s okay to be different, and it’s absolutely essential to smile (I still struggle with this).
What I failed to realize after gathering my sweaty self from the mat after that first class was that, you are okay, and you have what it takes to be the person you are meant to become.
I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?-
How do we retain a balanced centre when all the structures we have centered our lives around appear to be falling away? Lately, I have been personally challenged on multiple fronts: My health, future decisions at work, and at home. In essence – I feel ungrounded.
It is important for me to preface that I had not practiced yoga seriously before, and that I did not understand the benefits a regular practice could afford me. I mention this because I want you to feel that I was, in certain ways, an unlikely candidate to be a “yoga” convert. Nonetheless, I discovered yoga when my friend Rachel instructed me during a physical therapy session (after one of my knee surgeries) to lie on the floor with my legs up against the wall. “Cool Jeremy?!?” she said. “We are going to breathe now.” In breath, I discovered a way to temporarily relieve the nausea like effects of severe pain and frustration, knowing I will never be who I was before. The kind of anxiety that cuts deeply, and shallows your breath.
In the months following surgery and slowly winding down therapy, yoga gifted a pathway for me to experience myself, in my body again. In a rich, inspiring-hued yoga studio, tucked away in West Omaha, lit in the evening with candles, with the sweet scent of Nag Champa dancing through the still air. I learned to stay in the moment, even as I yearned to escape it – To be outside training for the next race.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not escape the memories I associated with the abuse I put myself and those around me through – the warm spring air against my scarred, raw skin. The fact that I was still bruised and bleeding, the pale moonlight that flooded the cool sky at night. I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the past and a lot of time wondering about the future. It is much more difficult to stay focused on what is happening right now in this beautiful moment. And still, in a pose, a flowing Asana, I could hold on.
The beauty of yoga is, is that it teaches us, that “things” do come to an end. The process of being immersed in a nurturing space and staying with whatever sensations emerge, and seeing how they come to an end is a profound process. To do this day, as I write sitting and standing due to being uncomfortable with my physical self. It has always been a source of shame to me that I have trouble being – Still – Not competing and comparing myself to others. Through yoga, I can express my true self in a good, a cool kind of way (even as a dude), my tense scarred face eases, and my heart feels wonderfully alive as though I could open it to the world, and I would just … Stay.
Lying on my wide, worn yoga mat early this past winter, I listened to my favorite instructor explaining the path of enlightenment to our warm class. Knowing the limitations of my own attention span, I don’t know enough about them to try exploring them here, but there was such exquisite beauty in her description of being released, unbound from suffering. My mind was scattered as my body was contorted on the grey mat – The whole of me was trying to emerge in this delicate moment. Like a blank canvas before the inspired artist, at first blank, then a beautiful image tremulously appearing.
What I discovered in me, the blank canvas early one Saturday morning, was enough (I’ll never be truly whole, but enough).
In the years since being introduced to yoga and mindfulness, my practice has ebbed and flowed, in so much that I don’t really practice “yoga” regularly in a studio now – the Asanas. Perhaps I will again soon? Perhaps not … Pausing, on second thought, I sit here smiling, knowing my devotion to yoga with immense gratitude for the true and singular comfort it brought to me. Through all of my suffering, the pain, the loss. It is necessary, to surrender, fully, to the things that sustain ones true spirit.