Today marks two years since I started my ashtanga yoga practice.
If the studio had been following the correct full moon schedule, there should have been no Mysore class that first day that I walked in. And if that had been the case, who knows whether I’d have this practice right now? I was so on the fence, so uncertain. But the studio was open, and the Mysore class was on. It was Wednesday, March 27th, 2013.
I will forever be convinced that everything in the universe aligned to allow me to go to my first ashtanga class that day because my body and my mind needed this practice so, so badly.
There was Michael, ready to teach me. There I was, apprehensive and skeptical and nervous. At that point I hadn’t done yoga in years. I’d spent a lot of those years talking about how I wanted to get back to yoga, but taking no action. I probably would never have gone if I hadn’t discovered that there was a studio just a three-minute walk away from my apartment. I probably would never have gone if my amazing mother hadn’t offered to gift me my trial month.
I went that first day, and I heard Michael tell the person next to me that she should come back the next day. I thought to myself, I wasn’t planning on this being an every day sort of thing. Do I have time for this?
My first class was tough. I couldn’t believe how exhausted I was as I did sun salutations over and over again…while everyone else around me was doing these crazy things that I was certain I would never be flexible enough to even attempt. But the next day I returned. I’m not sure what drew me back, when the first class had been so hard. I was miserable as I tried to count my breaths, miserable as the sweat dripped down my body, miserable as I tried to gaze at my belly button, as I tried to memorize the steps that Michael chanted.
But there was a sense of accomplishment. It was like when I used to do powerlifting — the amazing way I would feel after setting a new personal record. Except in yoga, I quickly learned, it was not about PRs. It was about making the effort, and practicing diligently. Routinely.
With weightlifting I used to get so pissed if I had a bad day and struggled to bench the same weight I’d done two days before. If I didn’t hit a PR it was automatically a bad day. I had a lot of bad days. I got up early in the morning just to get to the weight room, and then it would ruin my mood for the next eighteen hours because: Why wasn’t I getting stronger? Why couldn’t I handle the weights I wanted?
But in yoga Michael would sense my frustration and basically tell me — in kinder words — to get over myself. He would tell me that I had made my attempt for the day, and it was time to move on. And if I asked, “Can I try again?” He would shake his head and say, “You can try again tomorrow.”
When I went back day after day after day it was because that sense of accomplishment was huge. It didn’t matter that I sucked. It mattered that I’d tried. It didn’t matter that my progress felt ridiculously slow. I could feel my body changing. Especially when, after a week, all the frustrating pains I’d been dealing with for months (and in some cases, years) just…vanished. Yoga was the miracle drug that all my doctors hadn’t known would help me.
It’s been two incredibly important years. Two eye-opening and inspirational and disciplined years. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but I seriously can’t believe how much I’ve changed. I’m living in a completely different body, operating with a completely different mind.