Many of you know me as a/your yoga teacher. Well, I was your yoga teacher when I was around but I’m guessing you’ve lost track of me . . .
A quick update: Immediately following our 6 month stint as Innkeepers at a swank B&B in the Hamptons last summer, Ralph and I were called to duty in Charleston, SC to pump some life into a restaurant he and his partners had invested in. It wasn’t our first choice, but we didn’t have a Plan B, so we agreed. There’s a very long story attached to that experience, but that’s not the one I’m writing about here.
I’m writing to share with you the story of my stray from my yoga practice and my journey back. Tears welled up when I dropped into child’s pose while moving through this practice which has always felt like a part of my being and now felt like a distant but welcoming stranger.
Most of my life was about yoga. I practiced. I taught. I dressed in yoga clothes, which were the same clothes I slept in. I dreamt about yoga and bounced out of bed early to make class. My students and my friends were one in the same and often when I was introduced to a new person, the introduction came with the descriptor: Dina’s a yoga teacher. As though that fact defined me. And it did.
But when Ralph and I “hit the road” searching for I don’t even know what anymore, I went through long stretches of time where yoga just didn’t fit in. And then I’d come home, reconnect with my beloved local studio, students and friends and all was well again. This pattern continued for over a year. Year two was a different story as our work commitments kept us away from home for longer and longer periods of time and my yoga practice (along with other aspects of the life I knew) became more and more elusive.
I didn’t even think I missed it. The break felt good and life was taking me down many different paths. Slowly, my body and my heart began to close down. But I didn’t realize it . . . because I wasn’t practicing yoga.
Every day I’d walk past a local studio steps away from our current rental and think to myself, I should check that place out. And every day I didn’t. The reason why I didn’t eludes me, although I suppose it was some major avoidance tactic because I hadn’t forgotten that yoga demands we come face to face with what we’re feeling, both emotionally and physically.
I knew a lot would come up once I stepped on that mat. Traveling for so long meant I had slept in what felt like hundreds of beds and my nervous system was wrecked. I was tired and I missed my home, community and my now very independent son. And, I knew I wasn’t in great shape. Traveling inevitably means fewer home-cooked, healthy meals and a lack of routine makes regular exercise seem burdensome. Menopause was messing with my sleep cycles and moods and I just didn’t want to deal.
(To all my friends out there practicing regularly, despite having to “deal”, I commend you.)
It was so frustrating to me that I could help others find their way “home” but had no idea what I needed. I had forgotten everything I had learned. I felt imprisoned. And that’s when I remembered that yoga was the key that would free me from the cell. For some unexplained reason, a very deep part of myself (thank you) decided that the very next morning, I needed to go to class, no matter what. I simply had to ignore all of the excuses I had been using.
I was welcomed with a warm smile by a sweet teacher who was 8 months pregnant and very unassuming. I never mentioned I had been a teacher for almost 20 years. I told her I was new and listened while she told me where the props were, to be kind to my body and not do anything that felt uncomfortable or dangerous.
I remembered all the times I had been given the privilege to offer a student that same loving embrace. I remembered the power of the practice and a deep loss for having abandoned it for so long.
Lila skillfully guided us though a vigorous vinyasa flow. I folded forward, stared at my unpedicured toes and realized I could barely lower my wobbly, weak and weepy body from plank to chaturanga without feeling as though I would break my nose on my mat. I truly thought that my trusty friend yoga would be like riding a bike. You just remove your socks, hop back on that mat, call out an OM or two and the strength, flexibility, mental focus, balance and deep love for the practice would all come back. But instead I felt like I was wearing a 3-sizes-too small wet suit – my muscles and joints stiff and tight, my connective tissue feeling like it was choking me.
Despite the discomfort and I knew I wanted more.
I remembered how much my body and soul missed the nourishment of a yoga practice – the parts of that practice that felt wonderful and the parts that make us want to run out of the room screaming. I missed dropping into child’s pose after a challenging sequence. I missed standing on one foot. I missed breathing consciously. I missed savasana.
I missed home.
There’s no place like home, as they say, so that’s where I’m headed. And in the meantime, I’m so happy to have my yoga practice back.