Almost a year ago to the date, I started doing yoga. I’d done it a few times before, but this was the first time I did it knowing I’d be going back…again and again and again. I started slowly doing one class a week and then before long, I was at the studio three or four times a week and didn’t care what I had to do to finance my new “addiction.” I started learning things about myself and my body and my mind that I never expected to learn.
And then I fell in love with an instructor who seemed to know exactly what I needed during every single class. Magic happens when you find an instructor that you connect with. She had (and continues to have, though I’m now more than 1500 miles away from “my” studio) an intuition that I think can only come from being in love with oneself and ones work. She just…knows. She taught me some very important things which I try to carry with me in my personal practice, now that I don’t have her guidance every single week.
Of the many things I’ve learned from her, maybe the most important is that of autonomy. I’d been in the process of learning what that meant (divorce will do that for – and to – a person), but it wasn’t until I’d begun to invest in yoga that I was really able to unpack the idea. She taught me one of (what I think is) the most basic ideas in all of yoga: My mat is my own. I invite onto and reject from my mat whatever I choose. Whatever happens on my mat is mine and mine alone and has nothing to do with any other person in the universe. My practice can be as spiritual or mechanical as I want or need it to be and that can, will, and should change from day to day, hour to hour.
This idea of solitude reared its very weird head for me less than a week ago. I was in my new home studio, working through new class, struggling through dolphin pose. It was a class focusing on gratitude, about being grateful for not only the easy and comfortable parts of life (and yoga), but also for the challenging and painful parts. Now, to be clear, I’ve never been grateful for painful experiences. I think they’re nonsense, but I also realize they’re inevitable and so I choose to look beyond the pain into the growth that I hope will come from it. That’s my gratitude, anyway.
So I’m stuck in this pose and something is making it more uncomfortable that it should have been.
It was my (new) wedding ring.
Oh my god, it was driving my crazy. The diamond was keeping my hands – and therefore my arms – from laying flat which was the discomfort. I turned it around, the diamond now on the back of my finger, which was equally as uncomfortable and now was annoying the hell out of me.
So, in an oddly symbolic move that I didn’t recognize until much later in the day, I took my ring off and slid it underneath my mat (so my crazy dog wouldn’t accidentally swallow it). I immediately felt a thousand times better and lighter and more in tune with my practice. It was the first time since I started going yoga that I really, truly understood what it meant for my practice to be completely about me…and that it was okay.
There’s a lot about being alone that I’ve learned from being married, from not being married, and from yoga. And that’s deeply transformed the way I approach life as a married person (again). My yoga practice is very much only about me. I can’t make anyone love it (or sometimes hate it) the way I do. I can only do what my body allows me to do, nothing more and nothing less. Yoga requires acceptance of self. It’s necessary that I allow my body to do and feel what it needs. Often, that means shutting everything out and experiencing yoga in a profoundly personal way.
Learning to be an individual is incredibly difficult. I have a tendency to get lost inside all my relationships – friendships, marriage, or otherwise. It’s a little like I become that Julia Roberts character in “Runaway Bride.” I feel like I need to be whatever it is I think someone needs or wants me to be. Yoga is teaching me that being myself – really and truly being me – is more than just “okay.” It’s necessary. I *have* to be okay with everything about me in order to get from yoga what I need. I’m learning to accept my body for what is does and does not do, but more importantly, I’m learning to accept mySELF. I’m learning to relish my alone time and I look forward to yoga because it’s a place where I just get to be me.
Yoga is the most individual sport a person can do. I have absolutely no doubt about it. It’s the only place where doing something imperfectly is actually doing it perfectly. There are no coaches telling me I’m doing something wrong and how to do it right. There aren’t awards to be won or medals to gain. Yoga won’t ever be an Olympic sport. Yoga is a place where doing your own thing isn’t just accepted, it’s encouraged! Being an individual and doing what feels right for you, those are the only real “rules.”
Yoga is the place where, no matter what I’m going through or how I feel or what my attitude is that day, I’m accepted without condition. Yoga allows my body to stay where it is, but gently guides me toward “betterness.” Often, I don’t know I’m getting better at yoga until I’m well into a practice and all of a sudden, my palms are flat on the floor and I’m balancing without concerns. Yoga is the place where I can go with my tears and my giggles, my ridiculous music or my silence, my laziness or my ass-kickery.
Yoga is whatever I need it to be. Because yoga is about solely me.