Do you know what it feels to have the light of love surround you when all the darkness falls away?
I love yoga. I love the practice. I love the challenge. I love the sense of feeling grounded as soon as I hit my mat. I am so grateful that it has become a part of my daily life-especially when I am not on my mat.
I was having lunch with my graduate school friends about four years ago when the conversation turned to the topic of hot yoga. Two of my friends had gone to a local studio and were sharing their experience with us. They turned to me and said, “Trackstar, you’ve got to try it! It is right up your alley because it is so intense!”
Unfortunately, my friends could not remember the exact name of the place. They knew the city where it was located, however, so I began my search. Picture the journey: a rainy, cold and dark November evening in an area that was completely unfamiliar to me. I began having second thoughts when much to my surprise, I arrived at an old house. The studio resided in the basement. I gave it a try that night and then another. Somehow, in spite of the fact that I liked the experience, something about the studio did not feel quite right to me. In a later conversation with another of my graduate school friends, she shared that she knew of another hot yoga studio in a different part of the city. Maybe this was the one my other friends had spoken about!
The minute that I walked through the doors of the studio, it felt as if I was home. Immediately, the place gave off an aura of warmth and welcome. Something inside of me understood that this community was a place for healing. Up to that moment, I had been running twice a day in order to alleviate the stress related to the finality of my divorce process. Well, I wasn’t feeling better at all; I knew that I was risking injury with my current regiment.
When I entered the studio doors, I was also coming to grips with my mother’s diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In essence, I was a broken person. I had nowhere to put my dual grief. One of the things that I remember from that period was the amount of time I spent at the studio. Essentially, whenever I wasn’t out running, I was there. It became a chief focus: go to work and go to yoga. I am sure that I took care of other mundane tasks; after all my oldest was applying to college and I had to pay bills, take care of the house and put food on the table. But I was drawn to the practice because I knew that is where I needed to go in order to move through my pain.
I have memories of hard work, sweat and tears during that time. Hot yoga takes you to a different plane; it peels back the layers of toxicity and negativity that invade your psyche. The beauty of the practice is that while space is shared with others-sometimes just inches away-it is profoundly private. I could let go and no one seemed to notice. When my mother died just 70 days after her diagnosis, I sought the solace of my mat. My time on it became a divine experience and I am not afraid to say that I felt my mother’s spirit during many practices. I was also grieving the loss of an 18 year marriage; I was beginning to understand that the practice was an avenue for me to move forward into a new life.
Time marched on and I found myself talking endlessly about yoga. When finances got tight for a period of time, I practiced twice a day at home. My sons knew how much I loved yoga and conspired that Christmas to buy me 2 classes. I remember seeing them with their heads together, engaged in deep conversation while we were buying our tree on a cold December night. Apparently, they were discussing my gift! For my birthday in the spring, two more classes were purchased followed by a Mother’s Day excursion to the studio for more. My youngest attempted the drive himself the day before and got lost!
The studio became another supportive community for me. I cannot begin to explain how each of the instructors helped me to become a more whole person. They are gifted people who have the ability to tune into the needs of their clients. They helped me heal and become a more confident woman. I will never forget the day that Elizabeth came up to me after a session to pay me a compliment. She said that I looked different in the practice now from what I was at the beginning. When I shared my story with her, she said that she could easily see that I was happier.
Yoga is an integral part of my life. It helped me become a better, more peaceful person. It helped me to realize that the ending of my marriage was a gift. It helped me to enjoy a healthy loving partnership with a beautiful man. When I first entered the studio doors, I walked in darkness, now I walk in light.