What Yoga Has Taught Me

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woman doing yoga
In the summer of 2018, my divorce was finalized. I had moved myself and my three kids out of our dream home and into a tiny two bedroom apartment. I got a cat. And I had to learn how to love myself again.

When my first relationship after my divorce ended (for the second out of three times, but that’s another story), I found myself twenty pounds heavier with absolutely zero self-care practices to maintian my mental and spiritual wellness. It dawned on me that all of my efforts were for everyone else. I had been pouring myself into a relationship that was not contributing to my wellness. I had stretched myself so thin between work, my kids, and playing music around town with two bands.

And I hated myself.

A friend invited me to try an intro to hot yoga class with her. I’d never done yoga in my life, but I’d read Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle and found the idea of starting yoga amidst my crisis to be a bit poetic. I was terrified to wear tight athletic clothing in front of others, and rather self-conscious about trying new things in front of people. Why not do both at once?

I struggled through that first class. As I sat on my mat uncomfortably and looked into the wall of mirrors, the woman staring back at me had aged ten years in the previous few months. She kept losing her balance. She kept comparing herself to everyone else in the room. She couldn’t get some of the simplest poses right.

The instructor, however, kept empowering us with words of encouragement. He made sure we recognized our bodies were magnificent – and that focusing on the details that we disliked would only bring us misery.

I decided to keep coming back. Slowly, my body became more steady. More sure. More flexible. (Probably more toned, but I had lessened my focus on the shape of my body compared to the other women in the room). I became proud of what my body could do – and what my mind could do.

Then one day during class, the instructor handed out blindfolds.

“Trust yourself,” he kept saying. “Every day you wake up with the ability to see should be a day that you are grateful to have sight. Your ability to see is not guaranteed.”

He was right, of course. I breathed in deep, full breaths and focused on how my body knew exactly how to move, even without the ability to see. I bobbled and lost my balance frequently. Then I tried again. I left class that day sweaty and sore, and extremely proud of myself.

I’ve made this class part of my routine. I go to yoga during my work day one day a week, and I prioritize this time. At first I was unsure of attending regularly because of the cost – but I had to prioritize this cost over other trivial costs like going out to eat and grabbing coffee. I re-worked my extremely tight budget to put yoga classes over other non-essentials. If yoga has taught me anything, it’s that I need to prioritize my own wellness over everything else in my life. If I am not well, my family is not well. If I am not well, none of my relationships will be healthy. My wellness contributes to all of my relationships.

This one hour a week has become a time where my phone is in another room, out of my reach. This hour is free of distraction and obligations. During this hour, nothing is more important than my wellness. This hour is my time to accept the woman in the mirror for who she is instead of criticizing every wrinkle and curve.

I’m still usually the least experienced person in the room during my yoga class. I’m the least bendy, the least focused. I stand next to warrior women that are far more graceful and strong than I am – but I am no longer self conscious about standing next to them and wobbling on one foot while they are able to remain sure and upright. My progress can’t be measured next to their progress. My focus can’t be on comparing myself to everyone else.

I grew three humans inside of this body, and I have the scars to show for it. My body can do amazing things. So can yours.

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