In April of this year I started to practice heated yoga. It was the first time that my pacemaker, implanted over one year prior, was programmed for me to engage in physical activity without limitations.
I have struggled with exertion for most of my adult life and had developed a rather negative narrative around my mind’s disconnection from its body and my physical inabilities. I would tell myself that I wanted to exercise, if only I could. But I could not, so I did not. And that was true, until it was not true anymore.
I kind of wanted to die during my very first yoga class. My muscles shook as I attempted unknown poses. My balance was laughable. I gasped for breath. Sweat gushed from my scalp, poured down my chest and decorated my arms and legs like Chesty Puller. I was lost, inundated in the unfamiliar.
And yet I survived. And not only did I survive but I was lighter, less anxious and inspired to continue on an intimate journey of self-discovery and growth. After just several weeks of practice I noticed my muscles toning and my strength increasing. Before long, practicing yoga emboldened my sense of resilience, my compassion and my patience. And I have only been practicing for three months.
Just last week a woman asked me if I was going to have a baby. If so, she said, she wanted to knit me a baby blanket. My immediate and genuine reaction was one of gratitude for her warm offer. This bitch must really love to knit, I thought. It was not until hours later, after my ego had time to fight its way back to power, that I thought about not wearing that shirt again. It never even occurred to me to stand in front of a mirror and analyze the chub on my body. Through the practice of yoga I have cultivated an authentic self-acceptance.
Today during a yoga class I successfully entered a One-Legged King Pigeon Pose for the first time. I started to cry. Tears mixed with sweat and swayed down my face without conscious cause. I cannot say if these were tears of sadness, joy, or of something else entirely. I only know they were tears of release. Whatever emotion or memory grasped for dear life on my muscles or on the precipices of my soul finally slipped and fell away.
The practice of yoga is no different than the journey of life itself. In the sweat and the tears we rid ourselves of pain. In the struggle we are vulnerable, we silence the ego. In movement we find growth. In stillness we find peace. In practice we find gratitude. Along the way there is suffering, triumph, challenge, and evolution. Amidst the toil we find fulfillment, contentment and joy. In the practice of yoga we find ourselves. In ourselves we find the very meaning of life.
We have within ourselves all that we need to be free, to be whole, to just simply be, if only we do like the yogis do.