You can’t make this stuff up.
I’m really not one to join a yoga studio. Been there, done that.
But last night I was lying in bed being an insomniac. And I had this clear thought. I had already weirdly made my decision. I was going to the “Core 26” hot yoga class at the trendy/only hot yoga studio in downtown Eugene. The same one I went to as an undergrad. I checked my phone and it was about 1:30 am and they had a class at 6 pm and I get off work at 5 pm and it was decided.
This realization led me to go shave my legs. At 1:30 in the morning.
When I opened the bathroom mirror, next to the razor was a box of matches.
I crawled back in bed and thought about doing something I haven’t done in a very long time.
Pray. Like legit, barefoot, midnight, candle lit, tiny rug, Amidah (the Jewish whispered and personal prayer to God) pray.
I haven’t prayed like that in a long time. Since probably my sophomore year of college. But that’s a different story.
And then I remembered I have always had bouts of insomnia. I remember laying in my first house, so I couldn’t have been older than three or four, staying up all night in bed. And having conversations in my head with God. But that’s a different story too.
Finally, I rudely and selfishly woke up Barley, who was dead weight asleep curled up next to the door. I made him jump on the bed and he gladly collapsed as my furry, warm little spoon. I felt my husband’s warmth to my back, my dog’s to my front, and eventually lost consciousness.
Jack Johnson lies to me. He’s all “can’t you see that it’s just raining, ain’t no need to go outside” and I think ugh, actually it’s snowing and make a mental note to change my alarm tone as I hit the snooze. 5:00 am.
I’m legitimately afraid to drive in the snow, and happily agree to arrive at work half an hour early if Jon can drop me off. Plus the yoga studio is close to the bus station, so I could walk to the studio after and bus home.
Work was… Busy. and Demanding. It had high points. It ended on some low points. Sometimes at work I feel like a worthless loser. Just terrible. We all probably have these moments, and I had one today. I had started an email that I wasn’t looking forward to sending. I looked at the clock and it was 5:05 pm.
I told myself I’d be damned if I missed this effing yoga class on account of an email past 5 o clock. I picked up my bag put my coat and scarf on, threw the yoga mat strap over my shoulder, and forcefully exited the premises.
I made it half a block. I knew there was no way in hell I was going to be able to do yoga with the email on my mind. So with a great sigh of annoyance, I stomped through the dirty slush back to the office.
I forced myself to write it. I forced myself to press send. It was 5:30 then. I looked at my coworker, who was also working late. I asked point blank, “Think I can make it?” She said probably if there wasn’t slush. I put my headphones back in and started my march back down the hall.
And not a half block into my walk, i started to run. well, more of a shuffle trot. With my over-sized black tote stuffed with two towels, my purple yoga mat attached to my back by the green sling strap, and in my jeans and duck boots, I ran through the snowy slush. Music blasting in my ear, I ran the one and a half mile to the studio. I picked up speed as I went, scared to take time to fish the phone out of my coat pocket to check the time and see how many minutes I had.
I know how ridiculous I must have looked, which caused me to have a stupid grin on the verge of laughter as I ran. Which only adds to the hilarious imagery of the blissed out running yogini still in her work clothes.
And it was bliss. The feeling of running away from the worries of the office and the determination to just get to the studio where I could sweat and stretch and breathe and
As I ran I noticed the unmistakable menstrual cramp in my womb. Aunt flow was due any day now, so it shouldn’t have surprised me that I was feeling the cramps and just hoped I wouldn’t start bleeding right there in class. P.S, I didn’t.
Well, I arrived at 5:48, out of breath, like a boss. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more me and more empowered than I did out there on the street, trying to gain a little composure before walking through the door.
I declared kindly but firmly at the front desk that I only wanted a single class. Not a membership, not even committing to the community with a punch card. Kind of a no-no, in the yoga scene.
But I didn’t care. Fast forward ten minutes and I’m the last in the studio. In one whoosh I roll out my mat and cover it with a towel. I’m in the middle of the three rows, on the far left of the room.
I look in the mirror. I’m in a plain black sports bra and black running shorts. Not trendy yoga spanks, not leggings and a tank top to cover up my belly. My hair is in one long, course, full, chocolate-brown braid, coming all the way down past my boobs.
I have a realization that I am perfectly content in my body. This is maybe a first. Not an ounce of shame. I noticed that my arms were not toned at all, but I didn’t feel bad about my arms. I just noticed them.
I thought about all the times I used to come to yoga, just absolutely hating my body. Not wanting to be in a sports bra. Wanting to be anyone other than the girl I saw staring back at me sadly in the mirror. I remembered how I used to compare myself to the other bodies in the room, and feeling so very jealous of the girl I deemed the prettiest, smallest, strongest.
I remember one girl in particular. It may have been my very first Bikram class, it was definitely at the first studio I went to back in high school. She was in the middle and in the front, wearing one of those matching tiny yoga tops and bottoms, which was a brown tie-dye print. Her perfect caramel blond hair neatly arranged into two perfect low buns on either side of her ear, parted perfectly down the middle. She was the picture perfect yogi.
And I wanted to be her. Because of her exterior features, no doubt. But more so, because of her energy. Her face was perfectly still as she floated down from a tree pose to a toe stand. Arms in prayer, not a care in the world. Blissfully zoned out.
And I will never look like her. But standing there in mountain pose, ready to breathe and stretch and work and sweat my ass off, I felt blissfully zoned out. And not proud of my body, but proud of my contentment in it. Perhaps for the first time in a yoga studio. Completely unconcerned with anyone’s opinion of me, including the teacher’s, I did my own practice.
Half-moon was bliss. I wasn’t feeling standing head to knee, so I didn’t. I didn’t care how high my leg went in standing bow. I didn’t feel a jolt of excitement when the teacher said “perfect, Rebecca” to my warrior 2.
In wind removing pose, knees pulled tightly to my chest between my arms as I grabbed my opposite elbow with each hand, I let tiny tears stream down the side of from my eyes to my mat. I was so sweaty it wouldn’t have been visible to anyone. If anyone did happen to notice, I wouldn’t have cared. I held my body and honored that my empty womb was going to bleed soon and let myself be surprised that this realization saddened me in that moment. We aren’t actively trying to have kids right now. I’ve never miscarried or anything like that. But in that moment, I felt fragile and empty and a little sad.
For the rest of the practice, it was an effort to do any “blossom” positions. I wanted to shrink inward and keep hugging myself. I would have, too, but I didn’t want to draw unwanted attention to myself or alter the energy of the room more than my hesitant-to-blossom when I felt like curling-up-hibernation energy perhaps already was.
It is winter, after all.
The practice ended and I was the second to pop out of Shavasana. I unceremoniously coiled my mat in such a loose wrap that it was hard to fit it in the straps to sling it over my shoulder. I quickly rinsed off using the supremely minty eucalyptus soap and bee-lined it out of the crowded dressing room.
I left the studio and breathed in the cool night air. As I walked on Broadway towards Willamette street I saw the 51 bus, my route, buzz past me. I had an hour to kill and I didn’t mind in the slightest, feeling only a brief moment of slight disappointment.
At that moment my stomach lurched and I realized how ravenously hungry I was. I walked over to the trendy pizza joint and rather than getting a slice of vegan pizza got a slice of cheese, refusing to feel any hint of guilt about it, and a pint of frothy, hoppy beer. I took a sip.
I sat at the farthest corner booth, whipped out my phone, opened the notes section, and started typing this story that you are currently reading.
What just happened? Cheesy bite, chew. What is life? Swallow. What am I doing? Gulp. Why am I here? Another bite. Where am I going? Swallow. What is the point? Gulp. I feel… exhausted contentment and little desire for forward motion.
I sat there and thought about the last twenty four hours. Starting with my poor night’s sleep. My incessant, racing mind that sometimes I cannot turn off. As if my mind is not mine to control, and how it just yearns to write and write and write all of my thoughts until they are finally out of my head so that I may find some goddamn peace and quiet.
I thought about the sudden realization that I was going to yoga. And my desire to pray. I thought about how if I were to pick the best of all religions I would choose the Muslim prayer rug and the Jewish Amidah and the Hindu yoga. I thought about my crap day at work. I thought about how delicious that slice of pizza and beer were and how they filled me but didn’t stuff me and how good they felt, still hot in my stomach.
I pulled a napkin out of the dispenser and wiped the grease from my mouth and fingers, chugged the last bit of beer, and walked, briskly, to the bus.