In 2001, I decided I'd take up yoga. As a kid, I found this book of yoga poses and I thought the woman looked funny in her 1970s tights and leotard. I may have pulled off a headstand in my bedroom once or twice. I'm lucky I didn't break my neck.
Years later in 2001, I packed myself up and headed to a class with my best friend, Matt. He had been talking up this teacher named Jill and I thought it was something new to do. After a couple of months, I stopped going. I can't really remember why. It may have had something to do with the fact that I wasn't very flexible, although I could feel myself getting better over time.
It may have had something to do with my attitude.
It certainly had little to do with my body. I wasn't feeling completely uncomfortable in it, quite yet. Not in 2001.
Ten years passed and my identities changed from lesbian to genderqueer to trans*. With each label change, I felt weight added to my shoulders. To my hips. To my clothes. To my hairstyle. To my entire psyche. As I grew to better understand who I was on the inside, I felt more and more uncomfortable in my body. It began to feel like a prison. The weight felt like sandbags around my neck and waist. No amount of positive books or encouragement from people in my life helped alleviate this feeling. No diet or workout or pile of cookies changed things.
I got really attuned to this last year when my friend who is a yoga teacher suggested I attend a class or two to help boost my mood and outlook on life and I scoffed and said, "no thanks, it's not my thing." This was the second time that year I had a very strong negative reaction to a suggestion like that. It surprised me, having been on a yoga mat before, that I would resist it so strongly. The first time I felt this way was when I tried to take a dance lesson. Standing in front of the mirrors, watching my form move around, I resisted the temptation to literally run from the room. It was wrong. It was all wrong. And I felt like no one understood. Tennis and running, those were easy. I prefer those forms of movement, actually. But yoga offered something more, and I knew I wasn't ready to do it. I was afraid and, quite frankly, it was just too hard to be intimate with a body that felt so wrong. If I got on that mat, I'd have to sit with all that hard stuff. And since I sat with it every day, I didn't want to do it in public on a thin piece of rubber. Nope. No, thanks.
It was similar to how I'd felt on the evening of January 13th, 2010, when I came home in tears from a Nia class and I started my blog for my health coaching business. The title of the blog post was "The Hips Don't Lie". It was a humbling experience but it woke me up--or prodded me, at least--and started some important work on myself that I had been avoiding for years. And, most importantly, got me writing. You can read that post from 3 years ago right here: http://dillandigi.com/the-hips-dont-lie/
I knew that the main reason I took 12 years between yoga classes was that it's an extremely intimate journey inside one's body, mind and soul. There is no running from the tension in your hips, the shape of your knees, the hair on your legs and the fact that you forgot to clip your toenails. Or, in my case this past Sunday morning, forget to wear deodorant.
Yep, after 12 years away, I finally decided to take a yoga class** again. It was time, and I knew it. It was time to explore what yoga had to teach me about my body and the mind and soul that dwells within and around it. I meditate. I'm introspective. But mixing those with connecting to my body? It's good work that needs to be done. And I feel like I can do it, now.
After years of struggle, I had done the hard work inside and out to align who I know myself to be and how others see me (as best as any of us can in our current society). I could write a book about this (I currently am, in fact) but for now--things feel better. I once felt completely uncomfortable in my skin and now I feel--fine. I feel really, really fine.
That's saying a lot at my age. And after the love-hate relationship I've had with my body my whole life. I can only speak for me, but the internal struggle with body image and body dysphoria made something as physically intimate at yoga completely off the table. Maybe it was the solution that would have helped me sooner. Or, maybe I went exactly when I was supposed to.
In this class on Sunday, laying beside my friend as I listened to my other friend's voice guide the class, I drank in my journey leading up to the present moment. After all the tough stuff of the past 12 years, there I was again, on a yoga mat, on a floor, my palms pressing into the floor, my strong shoulders supporting me---the hair on my ankles measurably longer than 12 years ago.
As I moved through the hour, a gentle practice to learn the poses(asanas) better, I learned that this body of mine is strong and wonderful. It's beautiful now--and always was. It just needed some slight adjustments, always grounded in my firm connection to healthy food and healthy lifestyle habits. And I am glad I did whatever it took to summon the courage to do that because I have many years left here and I want to live them fully, happily, and feeling extremely healthy. In that class, I experienced the benefits of eating really well these past few years, and the running and stretching and strength-training I've done my whole life. I didn't feel like it had been 12 years since I was on a yoga mat. In fact, I think I probably did a better job at my age now than my younger self.
But man-oh-man, am I ever inflexible. Many, many hours of running, tennis and weight lifting (and ego-building) have expanded my muscle mass but have rendered me rigid and wound-up.
To be continued...
**my yoga studio of choice was the brand-new JP Centre Yoga, owned and operated by my friends Daniel Max and Sejal Shah. Daniel taught the class I attended. Special thanks to Gunner Scott who gently requested my presence a few times. His invitation meant the world to me. ;)