If you had told me a year ago, that I would become “that person”, who had a regular at-home yoga practice, I’d have laughed. And cried a little, because in truth, that’s been a goal of mine for years, and one I never thought I could accomplish.
Sure, I’d been through the various “30 day yoga challenges” that are offered every January 1, free of charge on YouTube or for a nominal fee on some other website. And in the days before the pandemic, I’d gone to “in-person” yoga classes once in a while, usually on a Sunday morning as an alternative to doing some other form of exercise.
I came to yoga fairly late, trying it in my 20s and thinking, “Nope. That’s not for me”, then arriving at a downtown yoga studio in my 40s, eager to try it again. I laboured through 90 minute Ashtanga classes that were as tough for me as any exercise I’d ever done before; it rivalled a cardio workout or a tough bike ride.
And I loved it. Even though I never felt all that yoga-ish in class; I could barely touch my toes and low squats were (and remain) but a dream. Sitting with my butt on my heels, considered a rest pose, was impossible. It wasn’t a matter of age – I’m pretty sure that even five year old me grunted when crouching to reach for a favourite toy.
I occasionally got distracted as well, looking around at my fellow yoginis, and doing that thing you’re not supposed to do – compare yourself to the person in the front row who would ease into a backbend or handstand that frankly, stopped my “ujjayi” breath in its tracks, as it supposedly travelled from nose to throat.
Yet, Sunday morning classes became a habit, until life got in the way (or the weather got too cold and I could never find a parking spot). One day, I took my yoga mat out of the car and stopped going to class.
Then I discovered on-line yoga, first through a site called Yoga Today that was uploading sessions on line and allowing free downloads of its classes. They were filmed outdoors and beautiful. And when they started charging a subscription, I eagerly signed up. I inhaled (in my mind at least) the fragrant dark green spruce trees that surrounded Adi, my favourite instructor, as she moved through her Asanas with ease, in the middle of a field in Wyoming or on a mountain top in Arizona.
One summer, before heading off to camp, I stocked my computer full of these classes. At summer camp, I made a “yoga-buddy”, and we met at 7 a.m. a few mornings a week to practice in the empty staff lounge, before it was time for breakfast. I thought I was hooked. It was a great way to start the day, and I joked with my yoga partner, who was some 20 years younger, that it helped get me through a busy day teaching video and running around with a camera, soothing the muscle aches and quieting the creaks in my joints.
I returned home, eager to start my at-home practice.
And the dream fizzled. I was too tired most mornings to get up and make coffee, let alone roll out the mat and do a yoga class. I also had this mindset that if it wasn’t an hour long, it wasn’t worth doing. Who had time for an hour of yoga, first thing in the morning? So I did nothing.
Then along came Covid-19.
I no longer visited my office downtown. I moved all of my work necessities into our small den in our apartment. I begged my husband to put away the bike gear and other “stuff” that cluttered the space. All I needed, I said, was a space big enough to roll out my yoga mat.
Wait. What? Who?
In December, I was talking to one of my closest friends, Eileen,. “What if,” one of us surmised, “we did yoga every morning?”
“Um, go on…”
I belonged to an on-line studio called glo.com and had been doing yoga once or twice a month over the past few years, often with my husband joining me. I felt I was getting my full money’s worth for the $20 charge that showed up on my credit card monthly.
“So, yeah, what if we both did the same class in the morning and texted each other before and after?” I suggested.
We thought for a moment. I’m not a morning person, my inner self told me. I’m busy, inner Karen continued. And with my type 1 diabetes, I knew I’d have to eat BEFORE class to avoid an annoying low. Remember that camp experience? I’d always have a juice box or something before heading to the staff lounge.
And then another thought snuck in, just waiting to be verbalized.. “WHY NOT?”
And so, for the past FIVE months, Eileen and I have been doing yoga (mostly) four times a week, every morning. We no longer do the same classes at the same time; I love the guy who Eileen thinks talks incessantly; she loves one of the other instructors too much and would do his classes daily, and that’s tough for the part of me that craves variety.
On rare days, I only manage a 20-minute class. But the thing is, we’re doing something I never thought I’d accomplish. For me, it’s not about sculpting my flabby arms or thighs or whittling away my tummy (although I do feel slightly stronger and a little less inflexible).
It’s about doing something strictly for me that forces me to focus on something that isn’t pandemic-related. Sure, I still do a class with my husband on a weekend. But that four times a week practice clears my head in ways I haven’t found possible otherwise, in large part simply because I have to concentrate on what the teacher is saying as I move my body through the various poses..
These past few months have been so dark at times. Yoga makes me feel like I’ve discovered a bright spot within that darkness.
I still can’t do a low squat or sit with my butt on my heels. And that’s fine too.