Why I came to my mat and why you should, too

If you had asked me in the fall what my favorite activities were, yoga wouldn’t have made the list. But, avoiding yoga might have. Fear kept me from my mat, but it’s coming to my mat each week that now keeps me calm and grounded.

I consider myself an active person, but I need help in the motivation department. I’d love to be the type of person that can find self-direction at the gym, but that’s never been me. When my legs start to burn and my lungs start to heave, I find I’m quick to call it quits. So, when I first graduated college, I knew I needed to find a small boutique fitness studio.

However, finding the right fit didn’t happen overnight. I tried workouts from barre to Bikram and would go religiously for a month or so, stop for awhile, start again. I slipped in and out quickly and I would slip away from attending just the same. This was a time in my life when I didn’t love who I was much and I needed to hear messages of acceptance but what I heard instead was “push yourself no matter what” and “do this challenge to get your body ready for summer.”

Maybe it was just the wrong time in my life or maybe these styles of fitness weren’t for me, but they never felt sustainable. I found workouts that challenged me, but I never found my home.

Years later, I tried a heated style practice of yoga again and suffered heat exhaustion despite being avid about drinking three liters of water a day. That’s when I knew that a hot room wasn’t what my body needs. But it left me a little skeptical of starting yoga again, as I’d never experienced anything else.

When I met Kristin from Let It Be Yoga, she encouraged me to start practicing. Each time we’d run into one another, I’d make excuses from “maybe when my wrist feels better” to “maybe when I’m not so busy at work,” or vague assurances like “I’m definitely going to start soon!” but I never offered a concrete answer. I was afraid of practicing again. Before, fitness had been a way to fix my body. But I wanted a way to embrace my body as it grew and changed.

After a month of evasion and persistent invites, I decided to invest in a two-week class pass. I purchased a cheap mat to replace my musty unused one, signed up for about four classes with the best of intentions and then proceeded to attend not a single one of those classes. I remember running into Kristin one day after skipping my class the night before and wanting to bolt in the other direction. The truth was that I was worried. What if I wasn’t bendy enough to do the poses or didn’t understand the cues? What if I walked in and no one talked to me and I felt awkward? If I had only spoken with her about my reservations, she would have told me it was natural to feel this way and that many people feel hesitant to practice for similar reasons, but instead I smiled and made more excuses.

Finally, on the last night of my class-pass my coworker convinced me to come with him. When I walked through the door, I felt relief. I laughed to think at how long it took me to get there. Since I’d already wasted my pass, I decided I would give it another go. And I’ve made that same decision month after month ever since.

Yoga teaches me many lessons about myself each time I practice. I used to think I needed to sweat to get in a good workout, but Hatha yoga proved me wrong. I’ve never felt more challenged than holding half moon pose for an extended period of time or trying to engage my core when I lift up into boat pose. I feel myself getting stronger and more toned in a slow and natural way. But, it’s also taught me to be more grounded. I go to my mat to work out, but I also go to my mat to recharge. I leave each class after Savasana feeling ready to face my day.

There’s a poem by Hafiz which reads in the first line “This place where you are right now/God circled on a map for you.” Regardless of religious or spiritual inclinations, this quote rings true to me. The universe has a way of putting us where we need to be. The people we meet are meant to help us learn and fulfill, but this is only possible if we are open and receptive to opportunity and change. Yoga found me at exactly the right time.

We live in a culture of maybes and countdowns. Social media fills our heads with notions of “one month until bikini time” but what about the now and what about the after? If we aren’t being taught to take care of and love our bodies in a way that’s sustainable long-term, these statements hold little weight.

Each time I come to my mat, I am reminded to be present. I listen to my body that day and work on fixing my alignment. From breakthroughs like grunting into wheel for the first time, to watching my my chest shift a little closer to my thighs in seated forward fold, I am grateful for my progress.

If you asked me what one of my favorite activities is now, yoga would be at the top of the list. I love how comfortable and in touch with my body I have become. I also love the beautiful yogis I have met who helped make Let It Be Yoga my home and community. This is why I came to my mat, and maybe, if you’re ready, why you should, too.

Rachel MusserComment