Before I begin, let’s get a few details out of the way. I do not consider myself a yogi. I was a fine athlete (25 years retired), who has since been consumed with career, community contributions and celebrating with others. Oh, don’t get me wrong – my mind is clear, my spirit is alive and my very large heart is wide open to the world. I have a very privileged life and yet somehow I have created an existence where I am pulled in many directions (by choice) to fill the empty spaces with goodness. When it works, I fly effortlessly and when it becomes tricky, I want to yell out to the world “people, do you want me to stand on my head and spit coins”?
Of course, now, in the time where my life is overflowing with the most abundance I have ever experienced – I should add more to it right? (enter over compensating fourth of five middle girl child here). Yoga challenge… $120, basic Ashtanga (what the hell), a chance to actually move my body consistently and consciously, 6:15 a.m. every morning, with (I am guessing), a few other yoga keeners. Caveat: five of the most lean, focused and productive people I know work out every single morning and I want me some of that.
I plan it out, something I’m good at. Readjust my counseling practice to begin at 10 a.m. and end at 6 p.m.; will ensure my juice and smoothies are made every night; my yoga and work clothes set for the week in pretty little piles and let all my super supportive friends friends know that I have to be in bed by 9 o’clock for the next month. I got this.
Day one: At Purple Lotus Penticton at 6 a.m. – first to sign in – find favorite spot just behind a post and far enough away so nobody can see me – sit quietly – breathe in – wait for instructions from the beautiful, loving and perfect in my eyes Kamala – count 23 others – all good – forward – down dog – basic flow – breathing – then move and move and keep moving one pose one breath and then… (I’m a fairly quick study) I realize holy crap this is not my mother’s calisthenics (who by the way is 86 and goes to Curves 3 times a week…i love that old skinny witch :-).
Day Five: These people are serious hardcore, leg flipping, plank doing, cobra bending, crow holding, one foot balancing, knee squatting, arm around their shin twisting, body behind their ears folding, head standing – super freaks!!! I am in awe and jealous of them – overwhelmed by the pace – crying inside – missing my 1984 body and quickly in tune with my overactive ego. So I decide to stay – do my best and see where this takes me. I move at a pace that is safe with little appetizers of “competitive, show off and I’ll show her”moments…with a new goal to stay alive, not get hurt and come everyday…which I have.
Day Thirteen: Off my knees to full plank – can balance on left foot with leg stretched out to the side but the right is still a struggle, must be a message there – not so awkward getting legs from back to front of mat – now flowing through every second time she whispers vinyasa (translation “not again” and i imagine a great name for a wine).
Day Sixteen: I work on squatting – my big bone girl legs finally come off the wall and straight up over my head – I flow through the movements keeping up to super freaks and slowly feeling like one of them – one of the cool kids with a big big nerd inside – I am walking after class – stop for a healthy breakfast at The Bench (who’s staff are cheering me on) – eating well – loving my clients – checking task after task off my crazy list of to do’s – honoring my commitments – resting well – Jesus, Mary and Joseph (my pet names for three of the yogis and incidentally I have names for all of them) what is happening to me?
Day Twenty-Eight: Like the last day of school I set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. and bound out of bed. I am so excited and yet filled with deep sadness at the idea of not being in the presence of such beauty, calm and athletic prowess again for a long time. This is self love. The same routine – the same place on the floor – the same flow of people coming in at the same pace and yet I find myself already grieving losing them because they have changed me. That’s right, the yogis, the pure awesome freaky yogis have changed me. The last day I move through all of the poses without fail and at the basic level that is mine. Close to one breath one pose, I concentrate on me and not on competing with my “mat mates”. I am far from crow, far from twisting myself and touching hand to hand and so far away from the extraordinary commitment and athleticism of some of my friends and yet closer to spirit, to heart and to the place where I have never been before – focused on me…loving me. As we come to the end of the final class – I set up my hands for head stand. I have been working to get one leg off the floor and then the other and the other and the other knowing in my heart that I am years away from pulling myself completely off the floor. And with a few steps Kamala walks over to me and simply says “set your leg into my hand, more, more, more…now lift your other leg off the floor open your shoulders open your shoulders and breathe”.
I came down from the spotted head stand, wept openly, not so quietly sobbing on my mat and realized that there I was, the little fat pleaser girl with her legs in the air – at age 50 – standing on her head for the very first time in her life and not spitting coins for anyone but creating magic for herself.
Alexandra Paproski is a Naramata resident, Family Counsellor, proud sister, musician, crazy aunt, cook, best friend, event planner, swimmer, fundraiser, volunteer, good daughter, casual writer, wine lover and now, yogi.