Usually when you read these kinds of things they’re all, I changed my life and it’s awesome! Things have never been better! But the thing is, I’m still in that sticky in-between place. I changed my life - big time, and it’s still in flux. Some days that feels okay, others it kind of stresses me out. Actually, more than kind of, it really stresses me out.
I sold my home of 17 years nine months ago. I loved that house. If I could have married this house I might have. My former husband and I built it, and I picked every tile, every light fixture, every knob. When my life fell apart, not just once, but several times, my home was a constant, a safe place to regroup and put it all back together. I really didn’t know how I’d ever be okay without it.
The first thing I did the day after I moved into a temporary place with my boyfriend, was to join a gym a couple of miles away. Back in January, everything hurt - my spirit, my heart, my soul and my knees. My first time on the treadmill was a sad reminder of how I’d always been in pretty decent shape, but now I felt, not exactly broken, but far from whole.
At the suggestion of my writing partner and dear friend, I signed up for a yoga class. We’d been talking about this for a while, and I was ready to start something new. I committed to twice a week at first thinking that was plenty. During that first class all I kept thinking was, “I can’t do that.’ I watched everyone else flow smoothly from down dog to plank, to sphinx and back to down dog and on to warrior pose. No way was that happening.
But something happened on the way to pigeon pose. I learned to accept myself. My teacher, Kathie Gulotta, an amazing woman who has been a huge part of me putting myself back together, often uses the term, “radical acceptance.” I found myself repeating this phrase often because it meant more than just accepting my lack of flexibility or ability to balance on one foot for more than three seconds. When I couldn’t find a year-round place to live in my pricey Cape Cod town, when my work as a writer seemed stalled, and when I wondered if I’d ever be able to do that pigeon pose, I repeated, “radical acceptance” in my head over and over.
As I began to do more yoga, I started to notice that my love/hate relationship with my body began to change as well. Yoga was changing me from the inside out As a woman of this culture I’ve never felt thin enough, fit enough, pretty enough. And all I had to do was look at any magazine cover as I waited in line at the grocery store to remind me of just how right I was to worry. Cellulite, wrinkles, not being a size zero...take your pick, it’s easy to find a myriad of things wrong with yourself.
But on the yoga mat all was well. I was becoming more and more flexible. I was doing four classes a week and my body was changing. I had toned up, things were shifting and I felt, dare I say it, good. My posture had improved, my core felt stronger, and so did my spirit. I was not the same person who walked into that studio that first time.
I have been practicing Kripalu yoga four hours a week for nine months. It’s not power yoga, it’s not hot yoga, it’s old school yoga that quietly works you hard. Inside and out. I also do Pilates once a week, walk two miles three times a week and lift some light weights. At 57 I feel better than I have felt in a long time. I’ve been in pretty good shape before, but this is different. It’s not just about my body. Yoga has helped me accept who I am. It’s helped keep me balanced when everything around me feels like it’s falling apart. It’s given me a steadiness. A sense of self that is pretty unshakeable, and if I’m shaken I come back to my center pretty quickly.
There are the people who love workouts like CrossFit, but I know it’s not right for me. I happen to no longer feel the need to hurt to feel fit. I push myself, and yoga is challenging in its own way. I’m working hard on being in that place of radical acceptance. Some days I glimpse it, and even catch it for a few moments. It’s a process. Like easing myself into a challenging pose, it doesn’t happen right away. You melt into it over time.
Right now I don’t foresee a time I won’t be on my mat several times a week. I love my community of fellow yoginis, and treasure our time together. It’s become more than a workout for me, it’s a sacred and precious time to not just turn inward, but to be a small part of a whole. For me it’s become all about the journey, not the destination, and yoga is the path that feels right. One class and one pose at a time.