Last night I took my first yoga class in 54 days. On Wednesday, November 15th, I sustained a neck injury that derailed me and left me bedridden for nearly four weeks. It has been one of the strangest and most difficult physical things I have ever experienced. I have had to work my way back to doing basic things like sitting up and walking, while feeling like a stranger in the body I had just befriended using yoga. I have not been able to teach yoga or enjoy my own yoga practice and that has created a lot of painful feelings and emptiness. This experience won’t last forever, I know it is only a pass-through and I am adapting to the challenges as they come.
Despite the sadness of being kept away from yoga, I was terrified to return to class. I decided to try and attend yesterday’s Relax by Candlelight class. It felt like the best option until it was really go time and I found that even putting on my yoga pants was difficult and strained my neck. I stood in the bedroom thinking, “My god, if this is difficult what’s it going to feel like to sit in easy seated position trying to bring the crown of my head to the sky?” I’m not sure I can do this, I’m not sure I’m ready.
I stood in my bedroom and told myself the same thing I have told dozens of students; yoga is for everyone, it will meet you where you are today. Just show up Sherry, just show up. In that moment though, I wasn’t so sure it could be true for me. Isn’t it funny yet maddening how easy it is to share wisdom with others but nearly impossible to follow your own darn advice! Go figure.
Every single week I speak to men and women on the telephone or in person that feel too injured, inflexible or afraid to do yoga. I assure them that yoga will meet them exactly where they are. Yoga is a breathing practice first, just breathe. If they were only able to lay on their mat and breathe for an hour that they would be doing yoga and that it would be beneficial. Further, I assure them that they can “do their own yoga”. This means that they can do their most comfortable version of any posture that their instructor is suggesting because again, yoga is about the breath. The postures are secondary to the breathing. Allowing your body to ease into your own variation of any posture is exactly right and will be beneficial in huge ways.
I’ve said these things hundreds of times. Yet, I found myself steeped in fear as I walked into my own studio, to do restorative yoga with the kind and caring instructor Leanne, that I had hired. I laid my mat down in the very back and sat down. It was hard and I was scared. This required slightly more energy than I had to sit there, in easy seated position, with the crown of my head to the sky. I thought, if I left now, no one would notice and Leanne would understand. The room quickly began to fill up with clients, my yoga clients and friends. No leaving now. They have all seen me, I have been seen.
Everything began to settle down and I could tell class was about to begin. Leanne asked us to bring our whole selves to the space. She asked us to let go of anything that had happened before we arrived or anything that waited for us later. The room was warm with candlelight and the music felt comforting. As Leanne continued to talk, I focused on my breath, just breathe. I am here, I am safe, I am doing yoga. I realized tears were streaming down my cheeks. Yes, I was doing yoga; I showed up and yoga met me there.
Just as I had hoped, yoga met me exactly where I was. I did many of the postures to the best of my current ability and I left many behind, deciding to lay there and breathe. When I walked in the door, I felt afraid and broken. When I left class, I felt accomplished and strong because I had just done seventy five minutes of yoga. I did it and so can you. Yoga will meet you where you are. Your breath will come and your body will relax. Just breathe. You will do what you can and because of your gentle care, your body will respond in kind. Yoga is for everyone, regardless of ability, age or circumstance. Because I was afraid and felt so broken, I nearly forgot, but I remember now. Yoga is for everyone, even me.