I started yoga again. I’ve done yoga on and off since my freshman year of college, which, as my reunion committee has kindly reminded me, was over 13 years ago. I signed up for yoga as half of my physical fitness requirement (having passed out of the other half with a series of mediocre scores in sit-ups, push-ups, running, and sit-n-reach) because I was looking for something low-impact, that wouldn’t make me sweat through my pajamas. After all, this was a 9am class. It was low-impact. We learned some basic postures, stretched and crawled around on the floor twice a week, and avoided working near the girls who, unfortunately, did sweat through their pajamas.
When I was pregnant two summers ago, there was nothing I was looking forward to more than prenatal yoga. I have no idea why. Even since I heard about it, years ago, it held a mystique. Perhaps it was the exclusivity of the class membership, or the fact that it was one of few forms of exercise I could do as my belly bulged with the weight of twin fetuses. I don’t pretend that I was “good” at it, if one can be skilled at prenatal yoga, but it helped me in many ways. Physically, though my back did ache with my increasing load, it allowed me to maintain my flexibility and strength throughout my pregnancy. I credit yoga with helping me stay healthy enough to help my twins reach a full-term gestation. I was as agile as I could be, and the nurse who placed the fetal monitors even remarked, as I heaved my belly up so she could find my daughter’s heart rate, that she was impressed I had any abdominal strength at all left. More that the physiological benefits, prenatal yoga became a place for me to commune with other women in the same condition. I didn’t have any pregnancy buddies at work (they were either months ahead or months behind me, gestationally), nor really any geographically close friends who could guide me through pregnancy with their own experiences. I was conscious of the desire not to become That Pregnant Lady who drones on and on to coworkers and family members about fetal measurements, heart rates, nursery colors, crib safety requirements, and stroller designs. At prenatal yoga, the firist 15-25 minutes was dedicated to everyone going around the room, introducing themselves and having a couple minutes to talk about their pregnancies. Finally, every other Saturday, I could talk about my due date, feeling the twins kick for the first time, having a good prenatal check-up, and air out my anxieties among people who welcomed them or shared their own. And while it felt like a support group, our teacher said it was part of our yoga practice.
More recently, E, my coworker – who was thrust into the role of supervisor this year without much preparation or choice – had expressed a desire to find a way to de-stress, and was thinking of yoga. I had been looking, too, but for a different reason. In the midst of being a mommy for the last year-and-almost-a-half, I’ve been so focused on arranging and adhering to my children’s routine (okay, okay, it’s a semi-rigid schedule), that there’s been little time or flexibility left to feed the Me-ness, the Me-ness that I was so worried I’d lose to mommyhood. I never wanted to be defined primarily as E’s and L’s mommy, and to that end, I have wisely kept working full-time. But once I get home, I shift to mommy mode, and still hadn’t found a way to balance what I want/need to do beyond caring for my kids. My husband was in a play last fall, and while it was stressful to have him away two nights a week, and lonely during his dress rehearsals and shows, he got to get back into his Me-ness in a very real way. He was back on stage, expressing his creativity, and bringing joy to yet another packed house. It was now my turn. With my colleague holding me accountable (and in turn, me relying on her), we found a nearby studio, made a date, and went to yoga.
The first Tuesday, I rushed in, breathless, having struggled to put the kids to bed in time for me to get out the door. I worried that E would think I was absolutely nuts, that yoga was completely weird, and that I was more of a hippy-dippy granola that I’d let on. We moved through the poses, focusing on breathing, getting used to the style of the instructor, catching glances at others to make sure we were doing it right. Somewhere in the middle of the class, the self-consciousness left, and I think that was when we actually started doing yoga. I don’t have a great grasp of the philosophical or spiritual background behind yoga. I’ve always just done it primarily for the physical benefits, hoping to become slightly more limber or well-balanced. But my concerns of E thinking me completely batty vanished when we rolled up our mats and stepped out into the cool air of the street. Airily, she turned to me and said, “Where has this been all my life?”
Our husbands now have to kick us out the door on Tuesday nights. We’re tired, we complain. It’s easier just to have a relaxing evening at home, we reason. But you come home so relaxed, they counter. Do it for yourself. They think we’re sneaking off to bars, we come home so Zen and dopey. I’ve done yoga before to strengthen and support my body, but I’d never before done yoga to feed my mind, my soul. I know that sounds ridiculous and transcendental. I only wanted an activity for myself to do. It could have been a knitting circle or a book club, or taking bassoon lessons. But I think yoga was a serendipitous, and overly auspicious choice. I doubt somehow I would have come home from book club with my mind freed from anxieties, my body ready to enter a peaceful sleep, and my soul filled to the brim with Me-ness.