Dear Yoga Teachers,
As you know, you have guided me lovingly through yoga for the past year. I want to tell you my story because we smile and say hello, but you don’t know how yoga has helped me.
I want to say thank you.
You have helped me to grow and transform. This transformation is not just physical, but also emotional.
I started yoga because I wanted 90 minutes where I couldn’t think about anything except the movement of my body. It gave me a break from the emotional pain.
It was one of those weighty divorces, you see. I spent years trying to leave my husband. In the end, I just had to find a way to leave. I could no longer make up excuses to stay.
The yogi said, “Nothing can steal happiness and peace away from you. If anyone does make you angry, you are the loser.”
It was my mantra.
I went to yoga for head space. My friends said, endearingly, that I was a nut bag. (“It’s so hot.” “You can’t breath.” “The teachers are bossy.” “I would pass out.”) But I needed to go there and not think for a while—only concentrating on my body and my breath.
One day, I cried so much driving in that I couldn’t see through the windscreen.
I learned to love my body. I became stronger and fitter. Don’t get me wrong, my stomach is still thick like a tree trunk. I still have what I used to call, as a child, “lunch lady arms.” (You know, the kind that wobble, where your triceps are, as you move.) They are getting smaller. I love the stretch marks on my belly. They are proof of the pain of growing and birthing my children.
I love that I feel strong; I am beginning to love my body as it is. Although, physically, I still didn’t feel beautiful; the memory of words like fat, unattractive and lazy still ran through my head. At first, they were a sharp pain, then a reverberating echo and finally an ambient memory.
There are some poses I started to be able to do. I started to be able to hold my leg up during standing head to knee pose. (I’m still working on stretching my leg out.) I began to be able to lift just a few centimetres in the double leg lift of locust pose. There are other postures that I could do, and I got better at them, like standing bow-pulling pose and camel pose.
I used to eat my emotions.
Teachers, you said right after I did Camel pose, “This one will release your emotions. It’s okay, experience them and just breathe. You don’t need to drink right now, because it will suppress your emotions.”
Yeah, I thought, I don’t need to suppress my emotions with eating and drinking. I just need to feel my emotions. I had plenty of emotions; pain, misery, helplessness, hopelessness, loss, feeling unloved. As the year progressed, I felt joy, serenity and love. I always come out of yoga feeling calm and happy. I hope that everyone I meet for the rest of the day can feel my peace, happiness and love.
Thank you teachers for guiding me during this past year.
Teachers, at the end of class, you say Namaste, which means I bow to the divine in you.
Seeing myself can be difficult.
I have always found it difficult to look into my own eyes while practicing yoga, facing head-on all the pain, joy and complexity that I hold within me. Getting much better at this is my next goal.
Author: Paris Purcell
Editor: Toby Israel