Thursday, February 18, 2016

On the Ground

Back in the spring of 2011 I decided I was going to do yoga teacher training. I'd been doing yoga regularly for a year or two, and I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Yoga teacher seemed better than waitress, so I found a studio, paid a deposit, and signed up.

Then, because the universe is so universal-y I developed an umbilical hernia six weeks before training started. No yoga said the doctor. No yoga, no running. Let's see if it heals, or surgery. Heartbroken I cancelled yoga teacher training. I stopped yoga. I stopped running. 

I drank. We moved. I had hernia surgery. I drank a lot more. Then I quit.

Yoga helped save me. I would get up before dawn and write and then at 6 AM roll out my yoga mat and practice with the lady on PBS. I remembered what it was like to flow, to move. I was creaky and felt a little silly and a lot delighted that I was up doing yoga rather than nursing yet another hangover. We joined the Y and I meant to go to yoga class but I never made it. I practiced some at home and wanted to do more but just didn't. You know how that goes, I mean just... life.

Then in early 2014 a friend invited me to visit a new yoga studio that her friend had just opened. The space was beautiful- a big loft on the third floor of a downtown building that was not only the studio but home to the owners. The wood floors stretched long and lovely, the windows full of sun. It felt welcoming and warm, so pretty that it felt almost like it wasn't real. I met her friend, who is now my teacher, and my life changed forever. 

I'd been secretly thinking about being a yoga teacher again, wondering if I could. I didn't have a steady practice, but I started taking classes there sporadically. I really liked the people who owned the studio and always felt so welcome. I'd go steadily and then I'd be gone for months at a time but then back. I started thinking about taking teacher training there, then seriously thinking about it. It took over a year for me to arrange it but here I am- learning how to be a yoga teacher. 

People say things like "This changed me forever" and then the rest of us get skeptical and sort of waggle our eyebrows at each other behind that crazy person's back, but damn if it isn't true. I have been to two weekends of training and I am pretty fucking different. Not unrecognizable, just more me, more of a being with the world. 

One of my teachers is a sixty year old woman. She is bright and bold and thoughtful and incredibly human and honest. She encourages us to feel and move in our own ways, to get to places in our own time. Her influence in my life has put my feet on the ground. She is teaching me how to stand, how to sit, how to walk- physically teaching me how to walk on my tibia, not my fibula, how to stand on the big toe side of my foot and the little toe side and my heel. I am a forty four year old baby learning to roll around on the ground and feel connected to the earth. You wouldn't think rolling around on the ground with no effort would be so freaking hard, but try it- you'll be efforting all over the place- trying to hold your body just right or to look like what you imagine is the "proper" way to roll around on the ground. It is hilarious to realize that there is no right way to do it, but you've been trying to do it right the whole time. You're on your mat, on your side in the shape of a banana, all tensed up about it, then you let go, and you roll from side to side and something in you loosens and you can breathe again.

After the first weekend I felt like I had the flu. My hips felt like someone was grinding my femurs into them like a mortar and pestle. I was tired and achy, listless, spent. Our training is a lot of talking by all of us- sharing our stories, supporting each other in the spirit of our sangha, learning how much alike we are and how different. Noticing each other. There are the Yamas, and the Niyamas, and the chakras, it is also physical- we do classes and practice teaching each other. We chant, and breathe. That first weekend took a huge toll on me emotionally. Then we got to the second weekend and our second chakra- water and sexuality- and I almost fell right off the world.

 I have come to terms with many things since I got sober at the very end of 2012 but sex has not been one of them. I have a big sad history of big sad things that I did or that happened to me because I was drunk and that is almost impossible for me to shake. I lost my virginity in a drunken blackout when I was fifteen. Was it taken from me? I don't know, I was so drunk I wasn't in my body. It all rolls on from there, getting bigger and bigger until I get to here: me clueless about how to be a sexual and feminine woman in this middle aged body, still sometimes shaky about just being a person. I don't know how to feel comfortable being a woman, how to not equate sex with sadness, how to not equate feminine with sex. I spent half of a morning class silently sobbing, tears leaking and leaking out of me wanting to run from the room and break down but I stayed and let myself quietly cry and start to heal. I've run away enough. That's yoga.

It all goes back to basics. I got lost when I was twelve and started drinking at fourteen to stop hurting. And that's where I stopped knowing how to be in the world. I don't know how to walk in the world as a woman because I haven't done it. It has taken three years of me swaddled in sobriety like a baby to be ready to learn how to stand. But I am ready. Oh, I'm ready. My feet are right here on the ground.