For better or for worse, I have consciously experienced stress since I was fourteen years old. Much of this dissonance stemmed from life as a military kid, people moving all around me, taking on massive responsibilities at a young age, identity stuff, and generally not having the ability to let things go. To be calm.
To be collected.
To just breathe.
Around one year ago, I started experiencing painful back-spasms. My back would give out at random, and there were even times where I was unable to move. So, I went to a back specialist. When the specialist returned from checking my scans, I assured him, “I’m broken.”
“No, you’re not,” he laughed back at me. “When’s the last time you did some type of meditation or relaxation exercise?”
“Never. Yeah…never,” I quickly responded.
“You need to relax. Your back and body are too tight. There’s nothing wrong with you except that you could probably use a bit of time to de-stress.”
I was annoyed.
I’ve received this feedback for the past sixteen years.
And yet, you’d think, at some point I would actually listen.
A few weeks ago, I finally listened.
I have a good friend at work who encouraged me to follow her lead and buy a two-month yoga pass for a studio down the street from where we both live. After sixteen years of believing I didn’t need to actually calm or slow down (or know how, for that matter), I struggled to accept that I could or might benefit from the opportunity.
Yoga has been in or around my life for over a decade. While I have never let myself enjoy the vulnerability involved in the practice, I appreciate the friends and community members in my life who have leaned in without fear or hesitation. I have one friend who travels out of the country each year for a yoga retreat, spending several days taking care of herself, her mind, and her body. I have other friends who make their living out of selling yoga gear and teaching others how to be in sync with their mind, body, and soul. Needless to say, yoga is present.
Acknowledging the impact yoga has had on these folk’s lives, I caved. I bought the pass, and this morning was my first class.
I rolled out of bed at 6:00AM, and was walking up the steps of Shaw Yoga around 6:22AM. I will be honest, I was very nervous. I was nervous about my body, my breathing, the fact that I sweat a lot. I wondered, was I am impostor in this space? What if this was something I was not good at? What if I was uncomfortable?
At some point during the hour, all of this was true. My body didn’t move like it use to. It took some time to regulate my breathing. I sweated a ton. I was incredibly uncomfortable at times. And all of this was okay.
By the end of the class, my sweating had ceased, and my mind was clearer than it had been in a long time. My body felt loose. I felt fully present.
There was a tone of kindness in the space – a tone of being kind to yourself and others, being kind to your body, being kind to the Universe.
Over and over, I replayed my sweet partner’s charge, “We practice self-love in this house.” We practice self-love in this house.
We practice self-love in this house.
I can easily argue for self-care, for self-love, or for putting on your own oxygen mask before helping the person next to you. But it’s more than an argument – the practice of these beliefs must be lived, daily. Authentically. Today, I am practicing kindness. I am practicing self-love. I am practicing care. I hope you’ll do the same.
Here’s to the light within me, honoring the light within you.