I live directly above a yoga studio. My floor is the studio’s ceiling (lucky them!). In fact, the yoga studio is part of what made me fall so in love with this flat when I first saw it. The ability to run downstairs to yoga—to literally not have to leave the house to go to a yoga class—was like a dream come true. Every day, I hear the sound of chanting and the harmonium coming up through the vents. It’s not a bad way to live.
I have lived in this house since February. Not once have I gotten down to a single class—until last week.
It is ridiculous that it took me so long to take advantage of this studio, but it’s sort of a case of “it is what it is.” I have spent the past several months working on an ungodly number of books, with a jaw-dropping amount of contributors. This means that every hour of the three days per week when Izzy is in daycare have been spent interviewing people. Ironically, I can’t really think of a scenario in which yoga would have been more useful. My brain has been jammed with other people’s information. At times the sensation of my brain being packed beyond capacity has felt physical. This doesn’t even begin to mention the fact that interviewing often feels a lot like I imagine being a therapist would feel. People use interviews as the opportunity to open up, share, and release things they normally wouldn’t. This is a profound privilege at times. But it’s a lot when it comes in this sort of volume.
I’ve continued to keep up my yoga practice through all of this, but it’s been snuck into little pockets of time when I’ve had a few moments to myself. It hasn’t been the expansive experience that I love so much in a class. It often involves a dog or tiny human crawling on top of or underneath me. Also, it is inherently missing the magic and power that come from the experience of being in a room full of people who are breathing and moving together.
Getting that back after missing it for so long is a feeling I can’t even describe. It like getting an important part of me back.
Lately, I’ve been finding myself using the phrases “coming home” and “getting me back” a lot. When I was pregnant, several people told me that when you give birth, you are reborn. I couldn’t wrap my head around this concept when it was just a theoretical idea, but now I get it. Having a baby and becoming a mom has been like cutting myself into a million little pieces and then slowly reconstructing myself. Some of the pieces have been discarded altogether. Others fit differently than they did before. And there are a few pieces that mean even more now than they did before. Yoga falls into the latter category. The last fifteen months have been a difficult but amazing process of figuring out which parts of me are important, which ones are still relevant, and building a new version of me around them.
In the past year, I have turned toward therapy to recover from trauma and to process all of life’s changes. This has alternated between talk therapy and EMDR (which triggers both sides of your brain simultaneously to help you piece together and emotionally, mentally, and systematically process trauma). It has been incredibly helpful. However, for a major portion of my life, yoga was therapy for me (in addition to being a lot of other things as well). In the years leading up to my brother’s death, I all but sprinted to a yoga class on a daily basis. At the time, I don’t think I knew why it felt so urgent, I just understood that I needed it. That it was somehow keeping me together. I now understand that what I was doing was soothing and re-setting my nervous system. There were a lot of moments of intense fear and upheaval during those years, and yoga was the only way I could keep myself from being in a constant state of fight-or-flight.
When I was building my freelance business, I made a point of escaping to yoga once a day. To keep the creative juices flowing, to be around people, and to keep myself centered and focused.
When I experienced a completely out-of-left-field break-up in 2013, I immediately and rashly signed up for yoga teacher training, which began the following week. I think it’s because I knew I needed to move through the heartbreak as opposed to stagnating in it. It worked. In fact, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
My entire life changed after that point. I largely took a year off from writing and dedicated my time to managing a yoga studio and teaching full time. It was a strange detour in my life since so much of my identity and career are wrapped up in writing, but it was one that provided me with a community that I still have. It instilled in me tools that I would need in the years that followed, even if I practiced them imperfectly and outside the confines of a studio.
Being back in a class provides me what a 90-minute window to remember that I can flow, balance, and gracefully transition both on my mat and in life. It reminds me that I am strong and flexible, and that I can shape-shift when I need to. It reminds me that, if I just get quiet and listen, my body can tell me everything I need to know.
In daily life, I often feel as if I have very few of the answers I need. When I’m on my mat, I actually know that I have them all, if only I can get quiet, create space for myself, and breathe.