After enthusiastic cajoling from one of my dearest friends, I attended my first Bikram yoga class in 2001. After class I thought "wow, that was intense, I'm really seeing stars!" and . . . I fainted at the front desk. I returned as quickly as I could! My first few years of practice involved squeezing in classes wherever I could and strategizing how I could go to work with out a shower post-class (since my dear first studio in Richmond didn't have showers at the time). Soon I was engaging in 30 day challenges then I did my own 60 day challenge - I felt like I was at peace, birds were chirping, life was good! I never liked looking in the mirror but I always left class feeling better than I went in. It's like I sweat all my anxiety out. I attended workshops and considered how I could take my yoga off the mat and in to the world so to speak.
Then, in 2006, my vehicle was struck by a drunk driver. All I remember is a truck's headlights in my rear view mirror, someone handing me a phone to talk to my fiance, and later him pushing people aside in the hospital to reach me while my mom held my hand. Not quite life flashing before my eyes but a very cinematic memory. Doctors warned the likelihood of a full recovery and ability to walk unassisted were slim due to knee damage. I became so focused upon physical recuperation - every morning I practiced pranayama breathing and seated half moon from my wheelchair. As soon as I regained mobility and permission to return to yoga, I crept up the stairs back to the hot room. Thankfully my amazing teachers had modifications to guide me on a knee that could bear no weight.
As much as I thought my accident taught me to appreciate every moment, it was yoga that made me realize I could push too much. My anxiety about disappointing work, my family, friends, being a victim motivated me to push (and push and push). Although I physically made great strides in mobility, I suffered from constant headaches and memory loss due to a head injury. Knowing how much yoga helped me physically, I was convinced it could help me mentally. After consulting with my doctors again, I made decision to request leave from work to attend "Yoga Camp" (Bikram Yoga College of India) in 2008 - unplug and give my inner self time to heal as I forced my physical self to do years earlier. Thankfully my work allowed this leave. Upon my return, I felt like I left a caterpillar and returned a butterfly - but there was still a lot of fluttering. Yoga became an addiction, I had to have my daily fix and it really stressed me if I couldn't make it to class. Where's the peace in that?
I began to experiment with different styles and, thanks to so many amazing people through my practice, my metamorphosis continues. I realized there was as much yoga in allowing myself space and letting go as there was in a hot room as there was in a moment of meditation.
Yoga offers me abundant joy - lessons in empathy, forgiveness, gratitude, and love. My yoga practice is my happy place and my heart sings when my children show me tree pose, remind me to breathe, or sit in stillness (even if I can coutn that moment on one hand). When we made the decision to move to South Delta, my anxiety returned big time - I am so thankful my husband beared with me. Finding the amazing community at Yoga Union assured my heart that I am where I am supposed to be and I am ever grateful for that.
As for that mirror, I don't think I will ever enjoy looking at myself in it, but I do feel better able to face myself . . . at least some times.
Mahalo, Gracias, Namaste