A letter to my favourite yogi
Julia - I left something at the studio tonight after your class, but I don’t want it back.
It’s my self-loathing.
I don’t think you’ll have to sweep it up. I suspect it will spontaneously combust without me there to feed it.
Yeah, you really kicked my ass tonight.
That was a tough session. The toughest part was turning up. It’s hard coming back to yoga after two years of no practice, especially in Whistler where every body is sculpted and lean.
But I have known you for ten years now and I don’t think I’ve ever been your student. So I sucked up my trepidation and your shining face and big embrace were a good welcome. And once I tiptoed into the studio, I saw all those ripped bodies and perfectly cut arms and just vowed to avoid the wall-to-wall mirrors for the next 90 minutes.
You might be the nicest sadist I know. Steel and sugar all rolled up in one. A core workout? Right off the bat. I’m in over my head, here, I was thinking. Julia’s class is a bit too advanced for me. Whistler is too advanced for me. All these fucking hardcore intense people are too advanced, and a little too comfortable in their semi-naked posing, for me.
But at some point in that 90 minutes, I stopped thinking that I wasn’t good enough, and I began to feel this jubilation in the effort, in the pure physicality, in the slow openings, in the sweat coming off my forehead in actual droplets. Something shifted. And by the time I was lying in Savasana, with more of my body’s salt water leaking to the bamboo floor, this time out my eyes, I almost felt light. The last time that yoga made me cry, it was frog pose that undid me. I’ve left some stuff in this room, I thought, thinking about whatever it was that I left behind when I opened my hips up that tiny little bit in frog pose. What now?
And then I had this weird conversation with myself.
Leave your self-loathing.
Okay. Good one.
No, seriously. Leave it behind.
Okay. Yes. I will. I have. There, done.
Yesterday, I watched Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability and wholeheartedness and when she said, “you are not perfect, but you are wired for struggle, and you are worthy of love and belonging,” something snagged in me. My breath in my chest.
It came back to me, tonight:
You are not perfect, but you are wired for struggle. You’re body is not perfect but it is wired for struggle. You are worthy. You know that you have to practice compassion towards yourself, first, right?
So you’re leaving it?
No, seriously, Lis, have you left it? Or are you going to sneak back in and pick it up, out of habit, because you’ll feel naked without it?
I’ll leave it.
I think I have resolved this, composed myself, when we roll out of savasana and into lotus, and I get ready to OM and Namaste and wrap up the session. I think I’ve made my peace and had a nice little moment with myself and the tears are done, just part of the saltwater residue of mostly sweat at my feet.
We didn’t get to start with Oms, you say, so let’s make a sea of Oms. Let’s finish with eight. But instead of all together, Om on your own breath, purposely, so there’s a sea of them. It’s really pretty.
You tell us not to worry if we’ve never Omed before, that we don’t have to, that it means many things, but the meaning you like is connected to a discovery that the sound made at the core of the earth is a deep vibrational Om.
And so we Om.
I cannot explain the wave of sound that washes over me, through me, around me. 20 voices, all different pitches, all resonating. I feel as if the earth has wrapped me up in a roil of sound and is humming-thrumming to me, humming some deep ancient multitonal song that my very cells recognise, a sound that contains whalesong and bee-buzz and a million other things I can’t pull out of it.
And the emotion of it shocks me. And it doesn’t stop.
The great wave of love and bliss and relief and grief that we are making washes over me, floods through me, bowls me over, buoys me up.
I disappear straight after class because I do not quite know how to express all these things to you. I slip through the long wet grass across the train tracks and back to my car where I pull out my notebook and write:
I left something in the corner of your studio tonight – my self-loathing. Just want to let you know, I won’t be coming back for it.
In that great rising sea of oms, I heard that I am beloved of the earth.
I am not perfect, but I am wired for struggle, and I embrace the physical pleasure of that struggle, that my body is capable of it, and I embrace all of our worthiness, our deep cellular wave-riding worthiness of being loved.