Yoga gets me in my head a lot for an activity so focused on presence of mind and body. On Sunday afternoon, I went to practice for the first time since Alaska. My mom and I walked in two minutes before class started, giving us enough time to spread out mats out before a soft voice was asking us to take a seat and close our eyes.
I’ve always found that picking up yoga isn’t quite like riding a bike. There was no bobble of balance, no wind in my hair. My body moves with an ease and familiarity that I never quite expect. Flows feel second nature and breathing becomes intentional. My heart centers and slows.
The aching I’ve been feeling for the past few days dissipated with each heart-center. Tired, weary muscles energized and came to life in every half-prayer twist, in every down dog. I moved with both instinct and intention as I sank into chair or warrior. I felt capable. I felt good.
A few years ago, I went to an early evening practice at the rec on campus. The sun was going down, and golden light poured into the quiet studio. Silhouetted against the mirrors, we stood in tree pose. I remember looking at myself to check my posture and realizing that I felt beautiful. Dressed in all black with leftover mascara, my hair pushed back with a soft headband, barefoot on my mat. Strong and still and surrounded by strangers.
For someone who has struggled her entire life with her body image, accidentally feeling pretty is enough to bring me to tears. There was no 20 minute makeup routine. There was no tugging at tops or fussing with jeans or changing into something that covers up more. I was not concerned with how others would interpret the jiggle in my arms. It was a singular freeing moment that I’ve been chasing down ever since.
Me practicing yoga is a lot like me writing poetry. I work really hard on it and then drop it for months. It stretches bits of me I didn’t realize were there. It usually helps keep my anxiety and depression at bay. I don’t know if I’m any good at it, but every time I do it, I want to go back for more.
I’ve been working on poems recently. Like, actively working. Like, sit-down-and-write-four-stanzas-and-rework-and-edit-and-write-more working. There’s a spoken word piece in the works, and I’ve been dabbling in flash fiction. I’m trying to embrace the struggle of creative writing. It’s nothing like blog posts. I can open up WordPress and dump my thoughts onto here with decidedly less effort. I type the way I talk and tell stories, without too much thought about meter or line breaks. Poetry, on the other hand, is much more labor intensive. And, for the same reason, much more cathartic.
I wrote one over the weekend that I’m actually really proud of, and I think I’m going to post it on here. There’s something so intensely gratifying in finishing a poem, especially when it’s been sitting in your drafts for days. I opened a vein I’ve been babying for months and worked out every drop of “I love you but.” It wore me out. It made me almost cry. I nearly trashed the whole thing, but the person I wrote it about read it and told me it was incredible.
When it was all said and done, I was left standing in the sun, feeling beautiful.
What I’ve been trying to say is that yoga and writing are the two things my soul is forever itching to do. It’s time to practice things that push us gently toward betterment. To work hard on understanding hard feelings. To letting pain give way to prayer and poems.
Here’s to strength of muscle and mind. Here’s to feeling beautiful.