I was really into yoga when I was younger. It started in college when my roommate got bit by the yoga bug, and convinced me to join her at a class. I liked it. Not as much as her (she became an amazing yoga teacher!), but enough to keep me interested. I practiced on and off for a number of years, and got really into it when I was pregnant with Jackson.
Prenatal yoga was so fun! We laughed at our silly big bellied bodies, and bonded over the challenges of doing “cow face pose.” It was an incredible bonding experience that I cherished. After Jackson arrived I tried some “mommy and me” yoga classes and was flummoxed when other babies cooed and laid sweetly for their mamas during class while Jackson screamed bloody murder with all his colicky might. I went on a yoga hiatus until I found a babysitter and became a casual yogi once again.
Then I had a MS relapse that destroyed my balance, and I never got my yoga groove back. I never returned to a yoga class because I was self conscious about my balance, and I (literally) couldn’t stand the heat of many yoga classes. Sure, I did a prenatal yoga DVD in my family room when I was pregnant with the twins, but it wasn’t the same. Then I started practicing Pilates, loved it, and kissed yoga goodbye.
Two weeks ago my women’s circle (Pathways Group) hosted a candlelight restorative yoga class led by one of our wonderful members. I looked for excuses not to go. It was the day of my MRI. I was tired. The kids were crazy-You know the drill. In the end, my love for the meetings with this group of women outweighed my anxiety. So, I went.
It wasn’t a beautiful reunion. Returning to my yoga mat was like seeing an ex-boyfriend after a bad breakup. It felt really familiar at first, but then I went to do a pose I used to easily float into, and I fell. All of the sudden those self conscious anxious feelings flooded over me. I wasn’t really comparing myself to other people in the class-we simply aren’t that kind of group. I was comparing myself to my former self. And that broke my heart.
I walked out of the class with mixed feelings. The teacher was wonderful, and I was reminded of what I loved about yoga. The stretching. The spiritual element. Savasana (final resting pose). But my experience was marred because I couldn’t get out of my own head.
All too often we compare ourselves to who or what we used to be when we were at our “best.” Yes, I fell out of Sunbird pose, but shouldn’t I be grateful for all the poses when I didn’t fall? Or just accept my silly body again and move on? I feel like this example (like so much of mind-body exercise) translates into life off of the yoga/pilates mat, and not just for people with physical challenges like myself. Why do we focus on the things we can no longer do instead of the new achievements, our personal growth, or just our ability to keep our heads above the water? You’re not less of a person then you used to be if you don’t fit into your skinny jeans, if you can’t remember how to do something you mastered in years prior, or if you fall during yoga class. You’re not less, just different. And that’s not necessarily bad.
I’m 33, and I’m different than I was at 19 when I first did yoga. Different than I was at 26 when I was pregnant with Jackson. Different in my body, but also different in my mind. And I think my mind has come a long way.
The morning after my yoga class I woke up and did Pilates. I fell in love all over again. Yoga is just an ex-boyfriend, but like all relationships it taught me important lessons, and I can see a restorative practice being useful in my life again. I’ve never believed in being friends with your exes, but in this case I think I’ll make an exception.