How Yoga Saved My Life: A Love Story

477196_916051343927_545783851_oToday, these very words came out of my mouth: “If I don’t make it to yoga class I honestly think I am going to stick a fucking fork in my eyeball.” One of my bar regulars laughed at me and suggested if I was going to do so, that it would be in my best interest to use an olive fork – which I thought was a fair rebuttal. With that I grabbed my keys said “Namaste, bitches!” and ran out the front door of the brewery.

It wasn’t a typical yoga day for me, in fact – I had already gone to the same class earlier in the week. I just knew it was exactly what I needed to keep cocktail flatware out of my cornea. It’d simply been “one of those days,” and my soul was basically demanding to be nurtured. I obliged to its request, but had only a small window in which to make it home, obtain some more movement friendly clothes, and secure my spot for Yoga Groove. I drove recklessly to the studio, nailing a curb with what can best be described as a rushed and sub-par parking job, and sprinted down the street clutching my yoga mat for dear life. It was at this point I realized I was suffering from some pretty new-age, first-world white girl problems.

I didn’t always love yoga, in fact – I used to think yogi’s were the cherry on a douchebag Sundae. I thought I’d never be able to meditate without thinking about one hundred completely random things like: Can you cry underwater? And why does a round pizza come in a square box? I thought names like Downward Facing Dog, Cobra, and Warrior sounded like sexual positions that I didn’t want to try, and the fact that I was gangly and awkward standing at 5’8 with limbs that look like they belonged to one of those wild, wacky, inflatable arm things they put in front of car dealerships actually prohibited me from practicing. I thought that people who brought their babies to yoga should be sterilized, and that if I was to partake in any actual class I’d probably spend the whole time holding in a fart and ultimately self-combust.

30237_572924707457_757651_nWell color me surprised when I tell you now – that yoga is my life fuel. That’s right people – I don’t only run on PBR, Cheetos, and cigarettes; I also run on the pure unadultered joy I get from sun salutations and my Ujjayi breath. Yoga is the cup of coffee to my morning and the way I say goodnight to the moon. I’m more comfortable in a headstand than right side up and I can make my mind quiet as a church mouse. I don’t know what happened that turned me turn from scathing cynic to a spandex toting, Savasana craving yoga junkie – perhaps it was that I was at a different place at that point in time, and I wasn’t ready to receive what it was it had to offer me.

In any sense I am currently receiving it now and I am receiving it hard. Can we talk about why yoga is so awesome for a minute? You know who goes to yoga? Babes. Total motherfucking babes. And you know what these hippie-dippy chicks wear? The least amount of clothes possible. I’m not going to pretend to be a classy broad here, please know and accept that I can see your thong when you’re in Downward Dog, and that I like it. The fact that you’re all toned and muscly from living off of granola, good vibes, and gratuitous yoga classes really doesn’t hurt either. If you ever want to hang out, sage each other, and open up my favorite chakra (my legs) – just let me know. The best and creepiest part of this is that I’m 97% certain that until I open my mouth, I am assumed heterosexual. So I just get to totally stealthily stalk your moves without you thinking I am a total pervert. Learn to be afraid of the secret lesbians in your yoga class – we’re here, we’re queer, and we really like your Lululemon sports bra.

Well now that I’ve get my inner eerie old man out, let’s talk realistically about what it is I get out of practicing yoga. It taught me how to breathe. You think like “Hey, you don’t need to learn how to fucking breathe – you just kind of do that intrinsically Tanya.” But seriously – to find your actual breath takes practice. I once had a therapist call me out on not breathing, which I wasn’t even aware was a thing that could occur but upon reflection I realized she was 100% right. I was clearly staying alive but I was not connecting to my breath, it wasn’t getting where it needed to go, and it existed on a completely subconscious level. While we always need to breathe, we should be doing so intentionally and deliberately. For example, when I am anxious I breathe shallow and quick – which actually slows the blood supply to you brain which makes you feel all sorts of funny. You know, like you’re dying or going crazy – both solid things you want to experience on the daily I’m sure. Learning how to properly ingest and acknowledge my oxygen has honestly been life changing.

Yoga is also a pretty legit workout. Whether you want to go to Restorative or Soft Flow, Power Hour, or Bikram is up to you. Now, I don’t go to yoga to get a six-pack, I go to the gas station up the street – but it truly can be a full-body workout; personally I just prefer classes that cater to my soul over cardio. I’ve learned to calm my mind, and when I meditate I don’t think about things like why it is that people say they “slept like a baby” when babies wake up like every two hours? I think about nothing, which is inarguably the greatest thing ever. Yoga is also doing me huge favor in terms of my horrific posture. If I kept going at the rate I was, Quasimodo would have been my celebrity doppelganger by the time I was 30. And my stress? What stress. A good yoga class can take me from a Stage-10 existential life meltdown to confidently copacetic status in a matter of minutes.

And did you know that yoga improves sexual health? Research has found that practicing for 12 weeks can improve desire, intercourse satisfaction, performance, confidence, partner synchronization, and increase the power of orgasm. So basically you can feel really good mentally, emotionally, and internally – and get super mega laid? Yoga sucks guys; I was dead on four years ago.

I used to feel silly, in my less than loving yoga days, when at the end of the class – we’d say “Namaste.” I always mumbled it as I fumbled my hands to heart center and prayed for a quick Savasana so I could roll up my yoga mat and get the fuck out. Namaste represents the belief that there is a divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore, namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.”

It is an expression of respect, and of divine love. It is a time for teacher to connect with their students and for students to also connect with one another. You share a space that is sacred, and Namaste is about recognizing and appreciating that. Maybe when you were “threading the needle” you totally had your arm resting on your next door neighbors yoga mat. It was probably fine but you were like “Oh my Gaia, I’m so in your universe right now and I don’t know if that is okay.” Today I totally got stuffed in a corner at yoga and was all up in the people around me’s business. I was grazing people with my toes, touching their yoga mat bags, and obviously crossing boundaries with every breath.

In Namaste we make peace and surrender, and a union of spirits can blossom. Every time I bow I mentally recite these words: “I bow to the divine in you. I honor the place in you in which the universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, truth, of light, and of peace. When you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one.”

We are all one when we live from the heart. Sometimes I wonder if I do myself a disservice by wearing my heart right on my sleeve, by truly living from the heart – and when I reflect I realize I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sometimes we must undergo hardships, breakups, and narcissistic wounds, which shatter the flattering image that we had of ourselves in order to discover two truths: that we are not who we thought we were; and that the loss of a cherished pleasure is not necessarily the loss of true happiness and well-being. Yoga has taught me about self-care. Self-care is about possessing enough awareness to correct the behavior of over-functioning for others while under functioning for yourself.

Inside of me there is internal knowledge, a gentle voice that beckons me to well-being. It tells me to let go, to stay in the present experience, not to dam up my life by worrying about my future or past mistakes. I will continue to breath peaceful and easy. Light in, light out, love in, love out.

I end tonight eating my own words – feeling grateful to have found something that works so vibrantly for me. That makes me feel grounded and sane, and will always make me back down after I decide to run for the Mayor of Crazy Town. This life is nothing more than delicate and beautiful and perfect. I resolve myself to it completely and I honor the both the divine and not so divine parts of me tonight. My birthday is coming up soon and if you want to know what I want this year? I wish no gifts, only presence. Namaste, bitches.

One thought on “How Yoga Saved My Life: A Love Story

  1. I loved this post and could relate to a lot of it. And, as a bonus, I really enjoy your writing style.

    I started doing yoga in my early forties (and so wish I had started sooner!) I find that it has helped me get in to the best shape of my life mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s stunning how different I feel now. It allows me to fall asleep at night without Ambien. It helps me remember to breathe when I have a high-pressure presentation at work. It reminds me that I am strong than I think and can be calm in challenging situations.

    Learning how to truly connect to my body and how to silence my monkey mind has been such a blessing for me. There is truly no greater experience then finding the peace that comes with this blissful combination. I think that is why one of my favorite yoga classes is one where we can choose to practice blindfolded. It is then that I can go inside and connect completely… (I will admit, however, that my balance still sucks, but it is significantly better than it was 2 years ago!)

    I have to ask though… What made you finally decide to try yoga when you initially had such a negative perception of yogis? And, what convinced you to keep on trying after your initial class? Because, I’m telling you that after my first class, I thought I was going to DIE and I never wanted to do yoga again. I slept like a fucking baby (haha) that first night, though (and admittedly after every class for the first couple of months!)

    What took me so long was the I had just never really been exposed to yoga. I was raised poor and we didn’t do fancy things like skiing and yoga. It wasn’t until I was looking to expand my spiritual connection and I had the opportunity to spend time with some beautiful souls that I learned about the potential benefits of yoga and decided to give it a shot… But even then, I found it to be almost an “elitist” activity because the cost can be prohibitive… Fortunately for me, I have found an amazing yoga community and some really talented teachers at Lifetime Fitness where I am a member. Now, I am lucky enough to enjoy unlimited yoga classes (all kinds!) for $50 a month. Life is good. 🙂

    One of things on my bucket list is to ultimately get my yoga teacher certification. I would love to share this life-changing activity with people that maybe wouldn’t be able to afford it, but would benefit from the practice… I really believe that if everyone practiced yoga, this world would be a much better place to live.

    Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂

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