Today, I was a bad yogini.
I was right smack at the top of my mat, in a forward fold, where I should be completely focused on the present moment. I should have been listening to my breath, and following it up into mountain pose. Instead, I was somewhere else.
I was more than 10 years ago in the past.
My mind had drifted away from my practice, to a time when yoga was something so far out of my reach it felt completely unattainable. It was something that intrigued me, something that friends had suggested I try. But, I was too self-conscious to go to a class.
No, girls like me surely didn’t belong in yoga classes. Those things were meant for skinny girls, for pretty girls, for girls whose bodies were graceful and light. I was heavy and clumsy, and most definitely not yoga material.
I bought a DVD and a cheap mat and hid in my bedroom with it where I thought I belonged. After a few minutes I gave up even trying to follow the willowy woman on my television, and instead sat on my mat and just watched in awe.
She was an older woman, much older than I was. She flowed from pose to pose so effortlessly. Her body was so flexible and strong. I wanted that. It was more than beauty or grace. It was more than health. I didn’t have a word for it that day, but whatever that was—I knew I wanted it.
At that time, I was terribly unhealthy. I was morbidly obese. I was taking prescription drugs for depression, Type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. I had constant pain in my back, legs, and feet. I could barely manage daily tasks like going to the grocery store. I missed out on years of playing with my kids because I was too big, too tired, or too self-conscious to run around and do the things little kids do. I was terrified of things like seat belts on airplanes, stadium chairs with armrests, and flimsy outdoor furniture. I didn’t want to be that girl—the one who was too big to fit where the normal people could.
Back then my body felt like a cell, and I was little more than a captive there. Sentenced to a life of pain and disease, and this constant feeling that I was less than everyone around me because of my size. I had given up all hope of ever overcoming those things. I had given up on myself completely.
And yet, here I was today. Standing on a slightly upgraded yoga mat, in a studio, wearing stretchy things that 10 years ago I would never have put on my body.
As I stepped back into downward dog, I realized that I could see the back of the room through the gap between my thighs. They were no longer blocking my view.
I took that huge step forward with my right foot to bring it between my hands on the mat. The step that was impossible before, when the rolls of flesh on my abdomen held my leg back.
I rose up powerfully into warrior, and felt the yoga tears coming. It had been so long since my practice had moved me to tears. But today, it was inevitable. That word—the one I didn’t have 10 years ago—it was right on the tip of my tongue now.
I clasped my hands behind me, opened my heart to the ceiling, and took a deep bow into humble warrior. I felt my right shoulder move easily inside my right knee. The crown of my head nearly reached the floor. My interlaced fingers pulled up toward the sky. Though my legs began to shake, I trusted them to hold me. I knew how strong and capable they were.
That thing that I saw on my television a decade ago—my god, it felt like a whole lifetime ago—the quality I couldn’t name in that that graceful, willowy woman, it was so much more than I could have imagined then. It wasn’t beauty or strength, or health. She embodied something rare and special that I had never felt before. I felt that today.
It was freedom.
I was free.
Free from daily prescriptions. Free from depression and disease. Free from fear of everyday activities. Free from the constant feelings of inadequacy, shame, and self-loathing. Free from the urge to binge. Free from my addictions. Free from physical pain. Free from my limiting self-beliefs.
With baby steps, trial and error, practice, education, sweat, tears, and the support of many wonderful teachers and friends—I had torn down the prison walls.
The hopeless woman who sat on a mat watching a yoga DVD in awe all those years ago had become healthy, strong, flexible, and incredibly, beautifully free.
Experiences like this remind me that nothing is impossible. No matter how unreachable, difficult, or downright crazy something may seem—we are only as limited as we choose to be. The moment we choose to make something happen in our lives, and start making steps toward it, it becomes possible.
We can truly achieve anything in this life—we just have to believe that we can. We have to want it badly enough to let go of the things that keep us from it. We have to make the commitment every day to make choices that support us in reaching our goals. When we do, we are magic. Pure, unstoppable, amazingly powerful magic. And, when we know this about ourselves, we can accomplish anything we desire. There is no dream too big.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Wendy Cope/Flickr