By Dana Gornall
“Aren’t you a yoga teacher?”
I burst into giggles. I was out walking my dog sometime in mid to late July earlier this year and had run into a friend. We walked together for a bit and the conversation somehow circled over to exercise and working out when he asked me that question. It wasn’t the first time I had been asked that—not because I am super flexible or have what media would portray as a “yoga body” but because I often post about yoga and going to yoga on social media. Or at least—I used to.
I haven’t been to a proper yoga class in months…probably since before Christmas, or early January. The holidays had made life hectic and it is typical for me to pause my practice during that time and pick back up in January or February. I know…I know. Serious practitioners will tell you that this is the most important time to continue yoga, maybe even ramp it up a bit.
But, I did stop attending class, with the intention to go back when life settled again. Then COVID happened and everything shut down. I have tried a zoom class, but it’s not quite the same.
Back to the yoga teacher question, though. “Aren’t you a yoga teacher,” he asked me. I laughed and said no, I wasn’t. That I could barely touch my toes (especially since I haven’t been to class) and that I kind of suck at yoga. He seemed surprised.
My first yoga experience began soon after my sister-in-law passed away, leaving behind her 7 year old daughter in our care. Life was a hurricane at the time—I was already a mom to two very young children, age two and four, I was working full time and had gone back to school. But none of that mattered to my niece who had just lost her mother to a long term illness.
Desperate to find activities to connect with her, I saw an ad for a Mom and Me type yoga class. I signed us up and talked with the teacher who said she could even bring a friend along of she wanted.
We found the class in an industrial part of town inside a packaging plant on a Saturday.
The teacher was an older woman—maybe in her mid 60’s, tiny with short, cropped hair. She told us about the book she authored, talked about religion and explained that one could be any religion and practice yoga, and showed us her altar with a photo of Jesus, a Buddha statue and a small bronzed Ganesha figurine.
Finally we gathered around and she began talking us through poses. She didn’t seem to mind the giggles that erupted here and there, or the fidgeting from the kids. She showed them how to go up in headstand, and let the class flow from moment to moment. My niece loved the class and it was so good to see her smiling and laughing.
A couple of years later on an out of state visit to family, I had the opportunity to go to yoga again.
One of my sister-in-laws had picked up a brochure from a local studio and said she wanted to go. I was surprised we could just “drop-in” and had assumed you had to be signed up for a class ahead of time. “Wanna go?” she asked. Of course I did. While my only experience had been the Mom and Me classes, this seemed like an adventure. A real yoga class—with real adults.
I ran to a local Target and picked up some cheap yoga pants and a T-shirt and we showed up at the studio set out in a rural area in the middle of a field. We spent the next 90 minutes folded over and bending upward, crouching down and arching backward. It was 90 minutes of being out of my head for the first time in a very long time and I was hooked. Was there a place like this near where I lived?
Since then I have had an on again off again practice.
The fact of the matter is that I’m not very good at yoga. My hamstrings are super tight, I lose balance in poses, I lack confidence at times. And ever single time I walk into class and roll out my mat, I ask myself why I came. That little seed of doubt begins to fester from deep within and I feel the urge to roll that mat right back up, pop on my shoes and head right back out the door. But I always stay and I always am grateful that I came.
So, maybe I’m not a yoga teacher…at least not right now, I’m not. But as I giggle and shake my head and tell you how bad I am at yoga, it’s given me so much motivation to grow and change.
Yoga has taught me to get back up. It has taught me to squash that kernel of fear that threatens to hold me back when I am filled with self-doubt. It’s taught me that I can not be good at something but have the potential to be better. It’s connected me to some amazing people. I’ve seen it bring smiles and laughter.
Mostly, it has provided a sanctuary in an out of control world—even if only for 90 minutes.
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