My nails dig into my rolled up yoga mat.
“I don’t know how!” our son hollers.
My husband and I are supposed to go to a Goddess Yoga class together at a local yoga festival. It is a rare chance for us to do something together, and I’ve been looking forward to it. But right as we’re getting ready to drop the kids off with my parents, our four year old son, Max, throws an enormous tantrum and refuses to get dressed.
“Max, put your leg into your shorts,” I say, trying to harness patience. “You do this every day.”
“I said I don’t know how!” he screams, flailing around on the couch in his underwear.
After about 20 minutes of trying to bribe, threaten and cajole him into putting his clothes on, we realize there is no way we can inflict his vile mood on my parents.
“Go ahead,” my husband, Scott says. “I’ll stay here with the kids.”
I suspect Scott is nervous that we would be harnessing our womb power in the class, creating a fierce and overpowering vortex of estrogen. But I am grateful for his offer to wrangle the wildebeests, so I head off to the yoga festival.
Walking the hallways of the East End Community School, I pass by beautiful yogi after beautiful yogi, most clad in skin-sucking leggings and tops. “Is this supermodel yoga, or can I be here, too?” I wonder.
Shuffling among the slender, muscular-yet-bosomy crowd, I look down at my once-black yoga pants. They are more of a dark grey now, with mysterious swirls of food debris and kid drool.
I feel something happening that used to occur all the time—a fast moving body dysmorphia. My hips expand, my small breasts flatten. Crows feet deepen. I feel lumpy and frumpy among the crowd of gorgeous women.
“Is this what they mean by hot yoga?” I wonder, eyeing yet another adorable young yogi.
“Stop comparing,” my saner voice says. “You are here to do something good for yourself.”
Before my kids were born, I did a fair amount of yoga. Now the only downward facing dog in my life appears when my son is done pooping. “Mom! I’m done!” he bellows, and I walk towards the bathroom, where I find him on his hands and feet, naked bottom pointing to the ceiling.
I mentally call this position brown dog.
I make my way to a large, white tent outside and plop my yoga mat down. The day is hot and sticky, and the tent provides a welcome shade. I close my eyes for a few moments before the class starts, attempting to shake off the aftershocks of my son’s tantrum and my jealousy of the other festival attendees.
The mats around me fill up with bodies, which I try to not compare mine to. The teacher appears; she is radiant and several months pregnant. As she begins the class, she tells us about three Hindi goddesses. Behind her, a woman plays the guitar and sings in a sweet, pastel voice.
I close my eyes and listen.
I hear about Parvati, goddess of love and devotion. Kali, who is fierce and many-armed. Lakshmi, who represents beauty and abundance. As I start to root into my body and move, the teacher weaves stories of the goddesses into our practice.
I stretch. My muscles reach, hitting that sweet space between burn and pleasure. We flow through a series of poses, always coming back to downward facing dog, our bodies making lines of V’s. I try to ignore the girl in the front row, the one who can move her body further and deeper than anyone else.
Fortunately, the effort of the poses requires most of my focus.
I hear the whoosh of my own breath, the guitar strings and the singer’s wispy voice. And the stories—Parvati, so devoted; the tempest energy of Kali; flowering Lakshmi. I take it all in and my body loosens. My mind slows.
We move and move and move. Up and down, our bodies rise to make crescent moons, then fold to the warm earth. I feel the tangle of grass on my forehead as I rest in child’s pose. I feel new space in my shoulders as we ‘thread the needle,’ and I hear myself exhale a small noise of pleasure.
I try to ignore the girl in the front row who can somehow sit on her own neck.
When I close my eyes, I see bright smears of color: hot orange, whispers of purple, clouds of pink.
I remember why I both love and avoid yoga: it requires attention to myself, when so often my attention is divided among my family, my work, and trying to keep our house from devolving into an utter biohazard.
But like a mother, like Parvati, yoga gives more than it asks. As we finally rest in savasana, I hold my palms to my heart. We all hold so much: devotion, fierceness, beauty. I let small images flicker through my mind: My children crawling on me in the morning. Max’s tantrum. Our lovely, toy-strewn home.
We open our eyes.
I am back in my body, the only one I get in this lifetime.
It is enough.
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Assistant Ed: Ben Neal/Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Eva Lin