My best friend E is part of the Mind Body Heart Yoga Studio and family. She has been practicing yoga for many years, but recently started becoming more involved in the teaching aspect. I tried it once many years ago – well, sort of tried it. I believe it was a Hatha Yoga class, which is probably one of the slower paced practices. As a cardio-junkie, it was not my cup of tea. It also was not a good idea to go right after eating a bean burger for dinner. I didn’t make it more than 15 minutes before my silent, but deadly, toxins erupted, causing me to burst into fits of embarrassment sparked giggles, which of course, caused the instructor to glare at me until I left.
Needless to say, I never went back, or gave it another thought. Until recently.
It was clear in just a few days of E’s visit that she seemed slightly different. We weren’t opening multiple bottles of wine or stuffing our faces with rich foods. Our conversations were more focused on family, goals and dreams. And most of our time was spent cleaning my house, gardening, cooking or taking walks. She seemed more centered, gentler.
And, the only thing she contributed to her new sense of self, was yoga.
There is a yoga studio above my favorite coffee shop just down the road from us. I’ve driven past it thousands of times over the last five years. I finally got the nerve to give yoga a second try, only this time I researched the different type of classes and picked one that seemed better suited to my type of exercise tastes.
As I climbed the stairs to the studio, I was immediately struck with silence and a sweet earthy aroma. In usual Emily form, I talked too much when I introduced myself, smiling nervously at everyone I met. The studio felt warm and inviting, a polar opposite environment of my first yoga experience which was held in a fluorescent lit, sweaty gym. I placed my mat at the very back of the room, near the door. Apparently I was planning my escape route already. Before I knew it, the whole room was filled with quiet bodies. Their mats only an arm’s length away from each other, shadows cast from the natural light flooding the room danced together.
The class started and people quickly moved into forms, their bodies falling effortlessly into place. Many had their eyes closed. They knew the names and flow of each progression, whereas I had to keep my eyes open, watching, trying to understand what to do next. This class, Vinyasa Yoga, was more challenging than I anticipated. My breath was deep, my brow was wet. I could feel every muscle in my body as it was pushed out of its comfort zones. At the end of class, there was a moment I could finally close my eyes and sink into the pose. With my eyes closed, I had no distractions. I could hear my heart beat. I could feel the heat from my core. And suddenly, I felt like I was in fellowship with every breath in the room.
I felt a drop of fluid trickle down my cheek, only instead of generating from my sweaty forehead, it came from my closed eyes. Just one small tear fell, like a sigh of relief, I finally understood why my best friend loved Yoga so much. It was physically challenging. It required focus and patience, but most of all, it demanded your spirit to listen more and talk less. It surprised me how much I needed that silence to really hear myself think.