yoga: a love heat relationship

i live in new york city. the land of infinite yoga studios and infinite yoga scenes. we go and seek inner peace as the chaos of city life hums around us. we take downward dog and ground into the earth in tall buildings with floors that hover stories above the actual earth. almost five years ago the walls that contained my life were crumbling around me. i needed to mend my foundation and rebuild. it is here in the city that i love that yoga found me.

in my younger days i was a competitive athlete. i ran track from the age of nine until freshman year of college. i played basketball and field hockey in high school. i loved to win. i loved to compete. i trained hard. it was about pushing my body to be better than it was the day before. because of this, i never viewed yoga as an adequate way to work out.  when yoga first found me i did not realize that the things it was sent to help me work out were far greater than my physical body. that while the the postures and balances involved in yoga are important, they only represent one part of the greater whole that is yoga. a whole i was not ready to address then and am still currently realizing.

i learned my first  sun salutation taking classes at harlem yoga studio. what they taught me served me well; it has taken me from class to class across the city. my first encounter with yoga served to ground me. allow me to feel in possession of my body at all times. not just when it was being taken to task on the treadmill or when my ass was cursing me during a cycling class at the gym but rather in my simplest moments. walking to work. sitting next to other beings on the subway. holding my daughters hand. bending down to help my son with his homework. standing in the shower as i washed away another day.

along my journey i heard rumblings of this bikram yoga; all the rage in these united states of american yoga and especially in new york city.  in my imagination bikram is practiced in rooms hotter than dante's fifth level. classes are lead by boot camp style yogis yelling and telling their students that they would not move to the next pose until verta has her knee correctly positioned. held in spaces where yogis tell me, a grown woman, that i cannot leave under any circumstance. no one can tell me what i can or cannot do. not gonna happen. plus, why on earth would anyone do yoga in a room that is 95 degrees or hotter? 

then, this summer, i spent two beautiful weeks in the suburbs of pennsylvania married to my best friend. we spent our days working from home. making sure the other ate, or rather downed the smoothies we consumed during our ten day green smoothie cleanse. we watched our children grow and learn and attend camp together. through them we bore witness to our younger selves. we went shopping together where countless people mistook us for a couple. we laughed loudly and we laughed often. our happily nappy heads held back bearing our teeth and our souls. and every day, usually at 5:45 am, we went to the yoga den for hot vinyasa yoga.

that july, i tentatively entered my first hot vinyasa yoga class and instantly knew i had found my temple. the weight of the heat served to grounded me. the heat added a level of intensity that made it easier for me to stay out of my head. the teachers were gentle with me and each day i understood how i was not so gentle with myself. i was forced to sweat out impurities of body and mind if i wanted to or not, the room demanded it. in this hot room i found my flow in a way i had yet to experience in my practice. i let go of fear and allowed myself to try new things. i prayed. i meditated. I remembered. i forgave. i changed. i grew. i let go.

i have practiced yoga everyday for the past 75 days. it is my goal to practice yoga every day for as many days as i am granted in this life. every day that i am on my mat, i accept myself for where i am on that day and in that perfect moment. every day that i am on my mat, i am learning to take gentle, loving care of myself. every day that i am on my mat i cultivate grace within. i carry all of this with me throughout my days and have loved myself louder than i ever knew possible because yoga found me.

september 23, 2014

vertayoga, hot yoga, harlem, yogi, om