March 10, 2016

take up your whole mat

I’ve recently started back to yoga.  And, yes, I am fully aware that any time I write about an athletic adventure, I am in the process of “starting back”.  That’s because I’m very talented at the quitting of the working out and not so skilled at the sticking to the working out.  Whatever.  Stop judging me.  

Anyway, yoga is the hardest physical endeavor I’ve ever participated in.  Why? Because in addition to moving and breathing (at the same time!!!) I also have to wrangle my brain.  And, I know you’re not inside to see the landscape, but let me just tell you… it’s a jungle in there!

I’m not an athletic person by nature.  Shocking, right?  I “played” volleyball in high school and the only recognition I ever received was “most improved” my freshman year.  Which, is interesting because I didn’t play my freshman year.  I had switched school systems and had to sit out a year before becoming eligible.  I practiced with the team, though and managed to hit people in the back of the head with the ball, rotate in the wrong direction and trip the setter on the regular.  I think they felt sorry for me and gave me the award when I learned how to get the ball over the net every once in a while.

My first day back to yoga was in the beginning of January.  January 2nd to be exact.  We’ve joined a fancy new gym that has it’s own studio and along with seventy two other New Year’s resolutioners, I grabbed a mat and found a place on the floor. It was so crowded in that room.  At one point, a limber, 40-something year old wearing the complete Lulu Lemon spring collection propped her leg on my shoulder to get a deeper stretch.  To my right was a gaggle of teenage girls.  I am not kidding you when I say they can wrap their arms around their feet two times.  Which, to be honest, they have an incredibly unfair advantage.  When you are only 14 years out of the uterus, you are still partially folded.  Talk to me in another twenty years, ladies.  

Anyway, my first class back was a disaster. I couldn’t clear my mind and I definitely couldn’t hold my downward dog. I can't even touch my toes for crying out loud! I would focus on breathing and forget to pose.  So I’d focus on the pose and realize I was holding my breath.  Hot mess.  I met up with a teacher a few days later in hopes of some guidance. She walked me through a few vinyasas (This is fancy yoga lingo for sequences.) and undoubtedly was fighting off hysterical laughter.  But, what she told me resonated so strongly with my heart that I just have to tell you.  

She said, “One thing you really need to work on is taking up your whole mat. Many women try and stay small and compact in yoga, but you’ve got an entire mat… take up every inch of your space.”

You guys! I just can’t believe how true that is.  I see this so much in my own life and those around me.  As women we try to be as small as we can, learning from childhood that tiny is attractive and acceptable. We try and whittle our physical bodies down often hurting ourselves and hurting the younger generations watching.  We try and lessen large personalities in hopes of fitting in.  “Be little, be quiet, don’t make waves” we’re told from pulpits and media and society at large.  But it’s a LIE! No one ever achieved greatness by hiding. True joy can’t be found if you’re focused on shrinking.  Plant your feet wide and fling your arms up towards the sky.  You’ve been given one beautiful life! Breathe it in deeply taking up EVERY INCH OF YOUR SPACE! Live big and wild and free! Oh, and if you see me in a yoga class, you should keep your distance.  I’m still a danger to those around me.  

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