It’s been so, so long.
I went back and edited the ‘About Me’ section of this blog the other night, and almost took out trail running and hot yoga, because it’s been such a long time since I’ve done either. But I left them, because I do love those two activities, for very different reasons but also for similar ones. Trail running. Finding a rhythm, inhaling three steps, exhaling three steps, navigating rocks and roots and mud and snow, ducking under branches and jumping over streams. It’s a primal connection with instinct and endurance, with the woods and the landscape. I haven’t completely put trail running on the back burner, and I’ve definitely been to the woods quite a bit over the past couple of years, but hot yoga was actually forbidden until at least the fall, and frankly I have put it off since because I was anxious about being able to get through a class, and I couldn’t find a shirt that I could be comfortable in in all those bendy, bent-over, folded up positions in a room crammed full of sweaty, cleavage-y, fit, long-haired women. (Have you seen some of the women who do hot yoga? It’s kind of inspiring. Or enraging. Or maybe both.) Also, my hair was a concern because there is no escaping a good full body sweat in hot yoga, and the last time I attempted a good workout it was at the trampoline park and my hair curled so tightly to my head because of my efforts that I had no choice but to cover my head with a toque for the remainder of the evening, and there really is no toque option in hot yoga. So I’ve been putting it off.
Last week I woke up having dreamed about yoga. And running. And I decided it was a sign of some sort of readiness, and so I went shopping, in the hopes of finding a shirt that, unlike the lovely breast-revealing variety that is à la mode in hot yoga, covered me enough to allow me to move freely without being distracted by the possibility of inadvertently flashing my scars while warrior-child-or-downward-dog-posing. That variety of yoga shirt is actually pretty tough to find, in case you were in the market.
So. I booked a spot for today’s hot flow class, and started the pre-yoga panic. Upon arrival there, as is always the case in these classes, we are encouraged to focus inward, to let go of any nagging thoughts or worries. Yep. Almost burst into laughter then, and had to refocus, because they take their silence very, very seriously in hot yoga. Okay. Breathed in through my nose. Out through my mouth. Then both through my nose. ‘Focus on your breathing.’
My inner dialogue went something like this from that point forward.
Right. Try not to focus on the fact that we are packed in like sardines, and I am very aware of the reality that the proximity of the woman to my right will make it almost impossible, unless she is very crafty, for her not to sweat on me. We will have to work together. Okay. Refocus.
‘Sometimes our minds find it hard to quiet.’ Internal burst of laughter again. No. Shit. Okay. Refocus. Why the HELL did I decide to lay down beside the mirror?! One glance confirms everything I feel about my body as of late. I used to be comfortable in front of the mirror in hot yoga. I felt strong. Balanced. Beautiful. I open my eyes, roll my head to my left and see the rapidly frizzing hair, the red face, the extra few inches packed onto my usually very flat stomach, the visual reminder of cancer (shit. This shirt doesn’t cover my lymph node scar – STOP. Let that shit go, Gouthro.
Breathe in. Out.
‘As you focus on your breathing, try to think about what you want out of your practise today.’
First: To make it through to the end of the class without vomiting, passing out, falling down, punching someone with beautiful breasts, or crying.
Inhale. Exhale. (They really do give you enough time at the beginning of class to find that focus, to chill the hell out and remember why you’re there.)
Then: A reconnect. Something. Anything. Please let me find, today, in this next hour, that my body still has strength. Flexibility. Please, for this hour, let me recognize myself. Let me feel at peace in and connected to my body.
And that was when I was able to dig deep enough to focus on that goal, to forget about everyone else in that room. To push aside thoughts about my extra inches, about my scars, about having the wrong shirt and hair that’s too curly, to forget about trauma and cancer for an hour, and work my body out like it hasn’t been worked out since April, 2013.
And, I found tonight that sometimes there are good surprises, which is something I haven’t had the courage to believe for some time now. I reached my goal. For an hour, I found my rhythm again. I made demands of my body, and it listened. It obediently flexed, planked, cobra’d, flowed and it sweated. It hurt; that has to be said. But not enough to stop me, not enough to make me vomit, pass out, fall down, punch someone with beautiful breasts, or cry.
What a beautiful release, to be fully present in my body – this flawed, damaged body, and find joy and strength in it again. What a beautiful, much-needed release.