07 Dec I See You AND I Love You
Although I just completed a marathon, I hesitate to say that I am a runner. Although I have been attending yoga classes regularly for 3 years, I hesitate to say I am a yogi, or even that I practice yoga. A yogi is someone who can bend herself into a pretzel while balancing on one hand and who is also calm and meditates daily. Without qualification, I can say I am none of those things and can do none of those things- I lose my mind on a daily basis, frequently yelling at my kids to find their shoes, and I do not remember the last time I was able to touch my toes. And yet, I show up at the studio every day. While the invitation to challenge my body’s limited flexibility while also attempting to quiet my mind for one hour continues to draw me to my mat, it is the community that draws me to the studio.
For a lifelong introvert as well as someone who has struggled with body image, walking in to a yoga class for the first time presented a host of challenges. After a lifetime of avoiding mirrors, I entered a yoga studio and found myself facing a floor to ceiling mirror in a room full of beautiful flexible strangers. At first, I placed my mat in the back of the class where my view of my reflection was obstructed. Without being able to see myself, I focused internally on the poses, on how my body felt as it was challenged to attempt new things. Although I was anxious about my inability to do the poses right, I did not let my fears prevent me from continuing to attend class.
In the past, I had always given up, giving myself a whole litany of reasons I was not good enough or flexible enough or young enough to do yoga. This time, I continued to attend class.
For several months, I self-consciously avoided eye contact with anyone at the studio (due to the aforementioned litany in my head). Gradually, and I am not even sure how or when, I started to raise my head and look up at my fellow students. One day, I introduced myself to some of the regulars I had seen in class for months. Although we had never spoken, we had shared our energy silently in class. In some way, I felt a connection. That unspoken sense of connection, the sharing of communal energy in the studio, is a strong and powerful force. Over time, my experience in yoga has become less about the physical poses and more about the feeling of connection. While I have bonded with my fellow students by practicing yoga together in class, I have carried the connection off the mat and formed deep and meaningful friendships. In the yoga community, I have found a sense of fellowship, a true commitment to each other, to encouraging and supporting each other on a level I do not find in my other groups of friends.
For most of my life, I have felt invisible. Recently I purchased a t-shirt at my yoga studio that reads, I see you and I love you. Yoga has given me the gift of being seen and of belonging to a community.
I may never be able to reach my toes but I will continue to roll out my mat every day and look in to that giant mirror in front of me in the studio; where I see and love my fellow students as well as myself.