Tales From The Mat

A few months ago I was advised to take up yoga or tai chi. I’d done some yoga in the past and I admit I found it relaxing, but it was never really anything that caught on for me. However, this time, when the advice was given, it was from a very trusted source and I agreed it was worth revisiting. My gym offered traditional yoga as well as aerial yoga, and I had many friends who were heavily into the hot yoga trend. At the time I had lots of time to explore all my yoga options. I took a few classes at a hot yoga studio and loved it (but it was far enough away that I had an excuse not to go, and it was expensive), I did some traditional yoga at the gym, and I tried some aerial yoga with mixed results. I’m not going to lie, aerial yoga is difficult! I am the oaf that fell out of the hammock attempting some inversions. I grew to call it going to “THUD class” recognizing that it has happened, hoping it wouldn’t happen again.

I took my struggles with aerial yoga as a sign to stick to regular yoga until I became more comfortable. Also, calling a spade a spade, I was taking yoga for stress relief and worrying about my lack of hammock skill isn’t exactly relaxing. The traditional yoga was working, I was leaving relaxed and feeling great. I felt like I was making great progress in practice and in life. I was also getting a little more than I bargained for. On a few sessions while lying in savasana to complete the class, I’d get a touch emotional about it all and the waterworks would begin to flow. They were often happy tears about my progress, and about how much in life I have to be grateful for. It was also a touch embarrassing to walk out of class with the puffy eye look, but sometimes that release is natural, normal, and necessary.

Somewhere in there I also found a great local hot yoga studio, Manifest Yoga, on the recommendation of my former partner at work, and I can say I’m 100% addicted!  I LOVE going, I love how I feel during, and when it’s over. The main instructor is as awesome as promised.  The other interesting phenomenon for me with hot yoga is that I still haven’t experienced any “mat meltdowns” at the end of class – even though I’m already doing poses I never imagined possible.

I’ve also returned to aerial yoga, found an easier class, and an instructor I completely love.  Tuesday night’s class was amazing. The instructor worked a lot on hip opening poses and said as women that’s somewhere we store a lot of stress and burdens.  She challenged us to think of what we were holding on to and urged us to use the practice to be mindful, and help to release it and let it go.  We were in an aerial version of pigeon pose and she talked us through the discomfort, and how to apply it to life, how it’s natural to try to back out of things that are uncomfortable and difficult, but good things can happen if you just try to breathe and work through the challenges.  Aerial yoga also ends in savasana in the hammock while gently, soothingly swaying.  She again guided our thoughts and meditations towards some challenging questions: “What you are holding on to that no longer serves you that you need to release – pain, relationships, anger, struggles?” and “What do you need to forgive yourself for?”.  Once again, the waterworks ensued.  It’s healthy, it’s part of growth.  There’s a reason there’s a term “growing pains”.

I didn’t ever expect my mat to turn into such a source of therapy and life introspection. I do hold onto things I shouldn’t – anger, hurt, grudges. I do back away from things I find difficult in favor of the easier path; who doesn’t? I don’t forgive myself easily for anything. Through my practice on the mat I’m becoming mindful and trying to let go. Embracing positive growth and gratitude is so easy. Making difficult changes, not so much.