One year ago today, I taught my very first yoga class. So much has happened for me in this past year, so much has changed. I was sitting here and planning for the class I’m teaching tonight, and I started to think about the first class I ever took as a student.
Just a few short years ago, I had reached a weight loss plateau and I thought it might help if I added some yoga to my routine. And I really wanted a yoga butt. And I also knew that I was going to hate it. I never liked group fitness classes. I like to run. Alone. Outdoors. Never with other people, and never in a closed room. To me that was so boring. I also thought that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Twist myself into a pretzel? Sit still and breathe? Lie on the floor with my eyes closed in a roomful of strangers? I’m gonna hate it.
But the instructor was a friend who had just finished teacher training. As he progressed through the training I had seen the changes in him, in his body and in his demeanor. A bright light had been lit inside of him, and it was somehow infectious, so I had to give it a try. I bought myself a $5.00 mat and walked into his community class in a church basement. It smells funny in here. This is gonna suck.
We sat cross legged on the mat and we breathed for a few minutes. Is this what we’re going to do? Sit and breathe? When are we gonna move? I’m gonna die here! My back is killing me! I can’t do this! Oh my god this is sooo boring. I should be home cooking, scrubbing the toilet, anything but this. This is torturous! I knew I would hate yoga. I am never going to do this again!
Then we stood up and stretched and forward folded. “Fold from the waist and reach your hands to the floor” he said. The floor? Are you kidding me? I can’t even reach my knees! The floor, he says! He’s got nerve. I’m never gonna do this again.
This voice stayed in my head for the entire class. Pointing out every thing that I couldn’t do. Pointing out how my soft, mushy gut was getting in the way of every fold. My tight hamstrings were not going to let me stretch. When we got in downward facing dog he said that someday this pose would be a resting a pose. With a smile on his face! I thought he was a crazy person. My arms were shaking like I had essential tremors. I had to bring my knees down to the mat after only two breaths. Resting pose, my ass. I hate this shit. Why did I come here? I’ll really never do this again.
When we finally got to the end of the class, he told us to lie on our backs and close our eyes. So I did. “Take a deep breath,” he said. So I did. “Rest here in Corpse pose,” he said. Corpse pose? What the hell? Now I ‘m gonna lie here and think about dying. It’s not bad enough that you just tortured me with boredom and put me in fifteen poses that proved to me how inadequate I am. How out of shape I am. How utterly unaware of my body I really am. Now I have to lie here and think about dying?!
I’m in a roomful of people and we are all lying here with our eyes closed. In a public space! Someone could come in and rifle though my purse and steal all of my money. Wait…! Where is my purse? It’s over on the table. This is nuts. Someone could go into that kitchen and turn on the gas and we could all die! Is that why it’s called corpse pose? Is there some twisted yoga master-plan for everyone to be killed in savasana one day? God, this sucks! How long do I have to lie here? When is it going to be over? End this torture already, please! Never again!
Then I heard his voice. He told us to bring our awareness back into the room. Bring it back? I’ve been acutely aware of the room. Listening for the sound of my wallet unzipping, or the hiss of the gas burners on the stove.
“Come to a comfortable seat,” he said. An image of a La-Z-Boy flashed in my head, as I rose up and crossed my legs, and tried to sit up straight. He said something about an OM, and told us to inhale, so I did. Just to be polite, some sort of ommm sound came out of my mouth for a second or two.
Then he said something really weird that sounded like “Lokah Samasta something or other”, and I thought about an alien language in an old science fiction movie. Maybe he’s casting a spell. These yoga people are all a little weird.
And then it was over. Thank God. Never. Again.
I rolled up my mat, and put on my shoes. I thanked him for the class, and I left. I walked out into the day, ready to drive home to my family and get back to all the things that I had to do that I had put on hold, all of those things that I had been worried about ignoring when I left my house two hours earlier.
I looked up at the sky. I looked around at the trees. And I realized that I felt amazing. I felt like I had just run a marathon. The day was brighter. All of the edges were a little crisper. I felt lighter than I had felt in years. I was floating. I was aware of the breath flowing through my body. I was aware of my body moving through the air as I headed towards my car. I was aware.
And I knew I would be back. I’m so glad that I went back.