I step onto the mat with both gratitude and trepidation. My toes press into its soft cushion as I slowly lower into a seated position. I roll the shoulders, rock the neck back and forth, and begin to breath. Nice, deep, and slow. Soft. The exhale reverberating against my closed throat as the breath leaves my body. I try to empty myself of my anxiety and stress, and I know my body will enjoy the movement, the transitions from one position to the next, but I also wonder if I’ll land my lunge from downward dog, or if I’ll manage to successfully complete all poses. What if Adriene throws a new pose my way that completely freezes me in place?
What if I can’t do it?
I spent years being afraid of my body. It was too large, too clunky, took up way too much space. It felt ugly. I spent years being too afraid to jump, to climb, to run. I felt I couldn’t do anything, because my body wouldn’t allow me to. Pulling myself out of that mindset felt impossible and improbable, but somehow, I did. I gave my body that which it yearned to have: movement. Life. Activity. And I felt wonderful. I watched as I transformed from clunky to graceful. From afraid to ready and willing. Even still, once I’d felt the rush of endorphins from cardio, once I’d felt my arms and legs grow stronger and more capable, I was still convinced that I couldn’t do yoga. I wasn’t strong enough yet, or light enough, or whatever other excuse I gave myself to put off the practice. After years of proving I could do everything I thought I couldn’t, I still convinced myself I wasn’t enough.
Two steps forward, one step back.
I’m not sure what caused me to say “fuck it” to being afraid and start watching some yoga videos last fall. I think I’d just reached a point where I’d grown tired of my own excuses. Fast forward two months, and I’ve cultivated my own home practice. I have a bright turquoise and orange yoga mat that makes me incredibly happy once I step onto it. I have a mentor who teaches me that it’s important to listen to my body, that I need to trust in its strength, and in the capability of the earth to keep me grounded. She reminds me that yoga isn’t about nailing the positions–it’s about enjoying the journey. It’s about growing as both a yogi, but also as a person.
Yoga has taught me to appreciate the body I have more so than any other physical exercise I’ve done. I credit this to the fact that it’s so closely tied to the mental state and the use of emptying yourself of everything that will not service you. It’s about saying, “I trust in my practice and myself. I believe in my journey and myself. The hardest part of yoga is getting to the mat, and here I am.”
Since I’ve started practicing yoga, I’ve noticed my attitude shifting and changing, as well. I’m a self-proclaimed cynic; I enjoy tragedies far more than comedies. And while my love for all that is horrific and gory will never cease, I approach my life with far more positivity than ever before. It’s strange, but not completely unwanted. It’s nice to no longer live in anger. It’s nice to let things go, to separate myself from that which does not bring me joy. I want everything around me to create happiness and light. Most importantly, myself.
I step onto the mat with both gratitude and trepidation. My toes press into its soft cushion as I slowly lower into a seated position. I roll the shoulders, rock the neck back and forth, and begin to breath. Nice, deep, and slow. Soft. I remind myself that, as with everything else, this takes time. I’ve only been doing yoga every day for just over thirty days now. I can’t expect to be perfect at it. I may never be perfect at it. I trust that I will do everything I can do, and it will have been enough.