I can sit down at the piano and play a gorgeous Chopin Nocturne that would melt your heart and bring tears to your eyes. I can slow it down and speed it up, I can play it loud in parts and softer in others. I can bend the time, making your soul ache as you anticipate the next notes.
I can do this because I sat at a piano forty years ago and learned my first song which consisted of 12 middle C's in different rhythms. It was clunky and boring and not even a song. Day in and day out I came to the bench and learned and stretched and practiced and let the music take me where it wanted to go.
When I talk about yoga, I am speaking of my experience after having been on the mat for twenty years. Thousands of hours on the mat. Thousands of hours learning what it feels like to be in my body, to breathe deeply and to let go out outcome. For most of us, this isn't where yoga starts, though. The beginning of anything beautiful, whether it's a yoga practice, a career, or a relationship, often starts off clunky, unbalanced, and raw. Even a swan in all its majesty starts off humble, vulnerable and disoriented.
My first two years of yoga practice took place in a gym where I walked out of savasana (corpse pose) to go jump on the treadmill. (I didn't get that whole-weird-laying-down-thing.) I wanted to burn calories and meditating didn't cut it. I went to class and looked at myself in the mirror, I judged myself, I competed with the girl next to me, I overstretched, I under-stretched, I don't even know if I inhaled or exhaled for a good few years. But, even still, something magical happened in those classes. Yoga got into my blood. It got into my bones. It helped me learn how to be in my body and how to become more alive in my life.
Let me be clear: I was fortunate. One of the lucky ones. I was young, pretty, fit and already stretchy when I entered my first class. Even though I was incredibly self-critical, I was able to tolerate (barely) my mind and body for an hour. It wasn't excruciating to look at myself in the mirror. I was nowhere near perfect, but I definitely was within the "profile" of the yoga-type-person.
But, that just isn't the case for many of us. Some of us are older, more rigid. Some of us are hurt or sick. Some of us are carrying so much weight that even sitting hurts. Some of us are carrying so much shame, that a mirror is simply too much to bear.
If this sounds familiar, I want you to know, that yoga is not lost to you.
It was never intended to be for skinny-pretty-people-only. Yoga is merely a practice in connection. Connecting heart to soul. Connecting mind to body. Connecting self to God.
Yoga has become a powerful component of my healing work with students. I work with them privately. Slowly. And with kindness. Over and over, I hear how painful yoga once was for my clients. How much shame they felt, how excruciating the experience was, and how they never went back to class (or never even stepped into a class to start with). With kindness and gentleness, they are learning to connect to their body. In private, they are learning to feel comfortable in their own skin.
This is the beginning of their practice. It is raw, vulnerable and disoriented.
And it is beautiful.
The way we interact with our body is inseparable from our core beliefs about being alive. Our body is a silent leader, showing us the way to our truths through emotions, illness, weight fluctuations, pain, ailments and allergies. Our relationship with our physical body is a mirror image of our feelings about love, fear, anger, purpose, transformation, life, worthiness and God.
It's a practice at life. It's a practice of life.
You can't get it wrong. You just keep practicing and eventually truths start revealing themselves to you.
Yoga is like that.