If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now build foundations under them. ~ Henry David Thoreau
The first yoga class I ever attended was an Iyengar Yoga class.
We were visiting family in Wisconsin, and out of the blue my sister-in-law mentioned she was thinking of dropping in to a yoga class. “What? You can do that?” I remember asking. I had always thought classes meant one had to register, pay and commit to a slot of time—weeks, maybe months or a semester. People could just “drop in” to a class?
She showed me the brochure she had picked up after driving by the yoga studio (this was before smart phones were a thing) and I asked her if I could go with her. We stopped at Target to pick up some stretchy pants and a t-shirt. “Do we need mats?” I asked. “Most studios already have them,” she told me.
I had no idea what to expect.
As a child of the 80s, my limited idea of yoga was some combination of a Jazzercise class and dance, but I was bored—not typically bored, deeply bored.
I was a working mom with three small children on vacation with my husband’s family. I was out of my element in an unfamiliar place and feeling like I needed an escape. Jazzercise, dance, or whatever was coming, I welcomed some change.
The studio was set in the middle of a rural area, a stretch of land around either side with windows lining the entire back wall. We were welcomed with smiles from the few other women there and for the next hour and a half we were guided into pose after pose. My postpartum body bent and folded, rounded and straightened.
“I’m not in as bad of shape as I thought,” I remember thinking.
I took a brochure home with me in my suitcase, folded it into quarters and put it in my sock drawer, hoping to one day take a class again after life was a little more settled and I wasn’t always so tired.
I signed up for a yoga class at the YMCA after a year or so, but it wasn’t the same. The teacher sat on a mat in the front of the room demonstrating each pose, and as we mirrored her, she sat down again, looking bored.
I searched class after class online, and dropped in over and over, peppering my spaces of free time here and there between work days and Boy Scout events, shuttling kids to karate in the evenings and soccer practice. Life can be messy. And it was.
I was overwhelmed, under-rested, over-exerted and under-appreciated. But I kept coming back to yoga—any yoga.
I’m not the type of person to just walk into classes and places and talk to people I don’t already know. I am a creature of comfort zones. Afraid of heights, slightly claustrophobic, socially anxious and introverted, I like my boundaries. It’s never an easy place to be on the other side of that zone, but it strengthens us. With each foray on the other side, we learn to sit with the uncomfortable, with the unknown, with that which tests us.
There was something about the unfolding mat, the stark, empty floors, the bending and folding, rounding and straightening—it all quieted my mind in no other way.
Coming back to Iyengar yoga took some time, but I did come back—weekly.
Through the pain of a crumbling marriage, through the years of children sprouting into teens, graduating high school, beginning college. Through leaving a home and a familiar place and starting over, through ending a career of 10 years and returning to a former one in a new place, in a new city with new faces. Through stepping outside of my comfort zone, the one I have carefully weaved into place and crafted, to unknown territories of online dating and opening a broken heart again.
The thing is that even after the pauses in practice, some shorter, some longer, I keep coming back.
Even I—or maybe especially I—surprised myself when I started talking to my teacher about taking teacher training; because I kind of suck at yoga, to be honest. She told me I have a lot of work in front of me, in not exactly those words. I told her I know and that’s okay, because even if I don’t quite get there, it’s something to work toward.
I may be reaching, but I’ve been laying foundations for years—even though some may be a little crumbled.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak