Over the past few months, no less than 15 friends or well-meaning health professionals have insisted that I include yoga as part of my health regime. And I have ignored them with style and grace. It’s not that I don’t take yoga seriously, exactly. My hesitance has more to do with the thought of practicing it with other people. In public.
My skeptical attitude isn’t due to fear or loathing. Rather, I hesitate only because my brain is similar to many other writers and creative types, meaning it never turns off and there is a constant narrative or dialogue (usually satirical), darting around in my head. So when there is a room full of people stretching, om-ing and smiling in a serene, almost Stepford Wife kind of way, well you can imagine what a gold mine of comedic skits there is before me, just waiting to come to life.
It was this mindset – unfortunate or otherwise – that plagued me when I attended my first yoga workshop at Peace Through Yoga. Yes, it was an actual workshop – with other people – and for three hours.
Oh, and did I forget to mention the vision board portion of the program? You know, when grownups, armed with scissors and glue, cut out images and words representing an ideal future and create collages on poster board?
To add further complications, I took my 14-year-old daughter – and if I’m being honest, this was less of an enlightened-parent sort of move, and more of a strategic, she-can-be-my-crutch-if-I-need-to-leave strategy. We were both kind of nervous when we entered the room, seeing as how we were lacking personal yoga mats and wearing baggy sweatpants (as opposed to the form-fitting, booty-hugging spandex variety).
Many people welcomed us with disarming embraces and beaming grins. I even caught myself glancing around to make sure their object of affection wasn’t someone else standing behind me, just like in the movies. Calming instrumental music played on the stereo, multiple candles glowed (of course), and wind-chimes tinkled outside the sun-infused window. Would there be incense? I didn’t know.
Really, who could take this seriously? Even sitting in Lotus Position, I imagined Mike Meyers as the Love Guru, which sent me into an uncontrollable giggling fit that I camouflaged as an awkward stretch and cough. I was sure Melissa McCarthy and the cast from Saturday Night Live would burst into the room at any minute, armed with costumes and witty lines from the hilarious Women’s Group skit.
But then something magical happened (and I don’t use that description for just anything). I actually began to breathe deeply and calm down, even embracing the terminology used by the teacher – like mindfulness, intention … wholeness. It wasn’t easy.
I slowly disconnected my rapid-firing thoughts so I could listen and just … be.
It was clear I was a novice, as I awkwardly stretched and even grunted in a non-guru kind of way. It was embarrassing. I learned that you don’t wear socks when participating in yoga, but only after I unceremoniously slid out of downward dog position and face-planted right near my water bottle.
The vision board activity, which was led by a good friend of mine, reminded me of fifth grade, when I had to cut and paste pictures of my summer vacation to Disneyland. Since it involved unexpected stitches in my chin and a vomiting incident in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, it wasn’t the best of triggers.
The funny thing is that we all sort of reverted back to grade school, but in the best sense. A room full of women of all ages giggled, told stories, shared ideas and blurted out unexpected magazine treasures:
“Look, I found a money tree! Who wants a money tree?”
“I need a picture of Italy. Has anyone seen a bottle of wine?”
“Bingo! A woman reaching for the sky! Just what I was looking for …”
When we ended the day with some final yoga poses, deep breaths and yes, a resounding, “Om,” I truly felt different. Calm. Peaceful. And dare I say … balanced. My daughter was glowing (I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the picture of Ryan Reynolds on her vision board), and we were both, well … happy. Simply happy.
It didn’t take long for my brain to kick back into overdrive, but I was okay with that. The first thing it said was, “Thanks for the break.” And then it resumed it’s natural state: rapid-fire satire mode. I simply couldn’t help it.
©2015 Michelle Freed