I have a confession to make. Between February and this past week, I had only been on my yoga mat a handful of times. Four. Maybe. At first blush, this might not seem like such a big deal. Everyone goes through a rut now and again whether you’re a yogi or a runner. But if you know me, you know yoga is what I do. It’s my happy place. It’s not just a form of exercise or a hobby. It’s part of who I am. It’s so ingrained in me, in fact, that I have to do it.
And yet, for months, I didn’t.
There are many reasons why my mat remained rolled up, secured within turquoise Velcro straps, and nestled next to a bookcase for the majority of that time. Life. Work. A case of pneumonia that caused coughing so intense I fractured a rib. Not only was this the first time I had been sick in about six years, it was the first time I had ever experienced an injury. It was the first time I ever felt acute pain day in and day out.
Now, months later, my rib feels more like a distant ache. The coughing has ceased. So I shuffled life and work around this week to carve out time to get back to yoga. It was time.
Traveling through those initial Sun Salutations, I felt like a stranger in my body. Instead of my torso lying flush against my legs in forward fold, there was space between the two. Light could pass through. Whose body was this? Pushing up from the floor into Plank and pressing back into Down Dog—only months ago a simple, routine task—made my arms and shoulders quiver. Had I never done this before?
A wave of frustration crashed over me. I’d lost those things that were part of who I was. My bendiness. My strength. My brightness each time I stepped to the head of my mat. Yoga didn’t feel like yoga. It felt foreign and uncomfortable. Where was the joy in the movement, the grace in the flow? In just a few short months they had sulked off and abandoned me.
I kept moving anyway.
With every pose, my body created shapes that were weak imitations of what it could once do. As I lengthened out into Trikonasa, feeling awkward and unsteady in my foundation, I realized I had a decision to make. In every pose I could give into defeat and dwell on the fact that my body wasn’t capable of doing everything it could do in early 2011. Or I could step into my body.
After all, this was the very same body that could do whatever it wanted only a few months ago. Today’s body had tighter hamstrings, weaker shoulders, and misalignments. But it was still mine. And here I was giving it exactly what it needed and asked for. I could spend the remainder of the class judging its shortcomings with every move I made or I could just keep moving. I could accept that today’s body doesn't feel the same as January’s body and it’s not going to feel like tomorrow’s body either. This is what it can do right now in this moment. It doesn't matter if I can get my nose to my knees or my foot to my head. All that mattered was that I showed up.
As I let go and stepped into my body and stepped my body to the head of my mat, I felt for the first time, in a long time, that I was finally home. And like a weary traveler, I plan to stay for a very, very long time.