It Started At The Greek Restaurant.

Back in November of 2012, over plates of souvlaki, while my mother took Herself to the ladies’ room and Himself was too young to understand, I told my husband I wanted a trial separation. As it turns out, I didn’t really need the crowded restaurant to help me avoid an awkward conversation, because he didn’t have anything to say to me. Later he agreed. Even later he blamed me.

In May 2014, we finally separated, two months before our seventh wedding anniversary.

The Running Lady.

The biggest smile of my week just came today, in the form of a woman running through my neighborhood. She is eighty years old if she’s a day. Running. I smiled and waved like she was a parade float as she crested the top of a hill. She has wispy, white cotton candy hair, thick glasses, and neon orange sneakers. She smiled, waved back, and kept running.

Day 16. Yoga Girl and the Mirror.

A very young, very pretty, very good at bikram girl put her mat down so close to mine today. Sigh. There were plenty of open spaces available. Why must she put herself in my back pocket?!

I know I’m only supposed to look at myself in the mirror. We are all on our own unique paths. But damn, my self esteem got the better of me today, with this perfect girl so close to my wobbly reflection. She is lean. She is flexible. Her thighs are golden and smooth. She wears the short shorts. She is unwrinkled. Untroubled.

I am a back row beginner. Advanced students usually take the front row, so they can be good examples for the rest of us. I don’t know if I will ever feel confident enough to put my mat down in the front row, directly in front of that mirror. I like hiding, as much as one can possibly hide in front of a floor to ceiling mirror that spans the length of the entire room.

It’s a funny thing, that mirror. It doesn’t lie. I am almost 35. I’ve had two kids. I can see that fact in my hips. I never had hips before, and suddenly, BAM. There they are. I wear capri pants. No, you can’t hide from the mirror. You must confront yourself, and sometimes that mental work is harder than 90 minutes of sweat and strength.

Day 12. Breathing.

I finally figured out the pranayama snore! It’s breathing. What could be so difficult? It’s taken me twelve classes to figure out how to constrict my throat properly. And I still can’t do it every time—I zone out trying to count the breaths in the two sets of ten. I’d swear some teachers sneak in a couple more, but my brain is so busy that I can’t keep track.

The pranayama standing deep breathing exercise connects the breath and the mind and prepares the body for the class. It’s supposed to be mentally relaxing, but I find my mind focusing on so many things other than breathing—feet flat, knees locked, thighs and glutes engaged, stomach in, chest up, shoulders down, face relaxed, eyes open, elbows up, hips forward, thumbs in, weight in the heels (but no backward bending!), head back, relax the neck… Oh, yeah. And I’m supposed to be simultaneously breathing and synchronizing the breath with the movement of my arms and head. Breathing is complicated. 

Day 8. Looking at the Floor.

I’m stressed about comparing myself to others in the room. I can’t focus on myself in the mirror for the standing bow pulling pose, because it makes my balancing leg wobble. I have to look down at the floor, which tells me I suck, which makes me wobble even more. The teacher offered advice. Don’t look down at the floor, or that’s where you’ll end up!

I’m so frustrated.

Day 4. Drinking the Kool-Aid.

Maximum effort, maximum stillness.

I love this. Something about this workout is clicking for me. It fits me. I love that we do the same 26 poses each time. I can measure the days. I can compete with myself. (And I can measure the time left in class…)

I wasn’t going to go today, but I felt the pull once again and left feeling tired but energized. I think I’m at the beginning of a slow but important change.

I am grateful.

Maybe someday I’ll even love the locust.

Day 3. The Girl Who Cried At Yoga.

84asanas

I’m not going. I’m too sore. I should drink water so I’m hydrated for class. But that isn’t necessary, because I’m not going.

Where is my towel? I should stay home and rest. Where is my pink sports bra? I’m dressed, so I might as well go. It’s going to hurt. I’m standing in the hallway examining a poster of the 84 classic asanas to avoid going into the hot room. Maybe I could sneak out now and go home.

The room is packed. The sun is on the floor, but it’s not as hot in here today. I wonder if the furnace is working correctly?

The routine is more familiar today. I can anticipate. I can synchronize my movements with the dialogue. Almost. Noticeably better, though. I can focus on my breath a little. I can correct my reflection. Right hip forward. Left shoulder forward. Chest up. Sometimes I am so wobbly, but today I smile and laugh at myself. I try again.

Today I use my breath to push further. I want to phone it in, but I can’t do that to my reflection. There is a difference between laziness and knowing your limits. I focus on form and then I push. I can hear the sweat dripping and hitting my towel. I like it. It feels like I’m working.

Today I didn’t bring a washcloth to wipe my face and hands. I think it keeps me cooler to just let it be. I’m all for avoiding excess movement. But I’m actually not dying. This is a relief. It’s hard, but I feel strong.

I smiled several times today. (Except during that damn locust pose—my elbows felt like they were being twisted in a medieval torture device.) During the final few postures, I felt like I could keep going. What is happening to me?

During the final savasana, the instructor talked about the absolute importance of taking the time for yourself. Yes. I was there for me. I was making myself stronger. As she kept talking, my heart starting beating hard and my eyes filled with embarrassing hot tears. I realized I was, at last, finally doing something for myself after four intense years of ever constant motherhood, sleep deprivation, depression, and feeling alone in my marriage. It will make me a better mother if I take care of myself. Rushing to the grocery store alone doesn’t count as “me time”. It’s been a long time.

So on day three, I cried. I cried in yoga. My usually Type-A, control freak self decided to let those tears fall. They rolled down the sides of my face and into my ears and were eventually absorbed by my special yoga towel. I didn’t dare move my arms to wipe them away. This is a time of change. It hurts and feels amazing. (Even if I’m now the Girl Who Cried At Yoga.)

I left that hot room feeling so unbelievably good! I stood up a little taller as I walked to the changing room. I couldn’t believe I almost stayed home and missed such a great day! I’m definitely coming back.

Day 2. The Good Kind of Hurt.

It’s so hot in here. 

It’s hot in here, but the air is cool. I feel the heat on my body, but I’m breathing cool air through my nose.

The air was HOT! But I told myself these little lies about the cool air during my second Bikram yoga class as a means of keeping my heart calm. It was beating inside my ears for most of the class. Even though I practically fainted yesterday, I came back again for another dose of the torture chamber.

I was listening to the dialogue and also not listening to it—trying to drown out the sound and focus on the poses. I was sore and wobbly from the day before, but able to push a bit more than yesterday, which hurt in a good way. The only pose that gave me true pain was the locust pose, which hurt beyond belief. I assumed my elbows had been incorrectly installed and made a note to ask the instructor about this theory after class. I could feel all the places that were sore from yesterday. It felt so much harder, and yet the time went faster, since I knew what to expect.

My “lamp-post leg” shook, and I got so frustrated. I wanted to be better than this! I hate failing. Was I failing? I was there, in the room. I was standing.  I made it through a second time and still had to concentrate on my steps as I walked to the changing room. As I rushed out to my car, to the air conditioning, for some reason I decided if I was going to try Bikram yoga, I should go all the way and do seven days in a row.

Bikram Yoga, Day 1.

They say Bikram yoga is practiced in a 105 degree room with about forty percent humidity, but the thermostat in my particular room said it was 117 degrees as I set up my mat and towel for my first class. Is the thermostat broken? Will this kill me? No one in the room seemed phased by the temperature, and so I relaxed on my mat on my back and waited.

“Oh, hey! This is like sunbathing!” I thought. Three minutes elapsed. And keep in mind I was still only just laying on my back. There had been no actual exercise yet.

The instructor entered the room and announced that the lights were coming on. Everyone but me knew this was the cue to stand up and begin.

This was absolutely nothing like sunbathing. The dialogue was constant and included dozens of tiny corrections. I tried so hard to be perfect and failed repeatedly. I was dizzy. Hot and dying. And so frustrated! I kept looking around for the clock (there wasn’t one) and after each breath wondered when it would all be over. Two breathing exercises and twenty-six poses later…

I made it! It took a while to stand up at the end of class after the final relaxation, which even then turned out to be a Bad Idea. I sat back down. I sipped water. I stayed in the room the entire ninety minutes, which was the goal for a first class. I even managed to do all the poses. Not well, I’m sure, but I didn’t take a knee or sit down.  After my head stopped spinning and I could walk a reasonably straight line, I made it outside and the breeze felt amazing…and then FREEZING. I was sore, but triumphant!