I went back to yoga last night. For the a-hundredth time.
For a long time, yoga was my life—sincerely, my whole life. It began with a devotion to asana, as it does with many people, but quickly I began to study the other 8 Limbs from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. I learned various ways of meditating; I read all the books; I jumped on my path to enlightenment with zeal. I even bought a neti pot.
At the same time, I began to make a living off of yoga. At first I filled in at my local studio in Palo Alto, California, teaching the occasional Saturday class when another teacher couldn’t make it. Soon, I began to teach regularly, and eventually I—like so many Western yogi renegades—quit my relatively decent job in the dotcom world to attend my first teacher training. From there, I began not just to teach fulltime, but to manage a yoga studio, and then another yoga studio, and before I knew it, I was working for a big-name yoga teacher, learning the difference between preaching the 8 limbs and actually living them. But that’s a story for another time.
Yoga encompassed me. My friends were all “yoga people.” We would have dinner parties and talk exclusively about yoga. I stopped wearing actual street clothes and succumbed to only wearing yoga leggings, 24/7. I branched out and learned all different types of yoga asana. Living in the San Francisco area in the 2000s, this was all very easy. Yoga was everywhere. It was everything.
Then I hit a snag. I got burned out on yoga—largely as a result of working for that big-name yoga teacher I mentioned above, but also because it started to feel empty to me, purposeless. I started spending way more time hiking outside and reading novels, and less time going to yoga classes and reading important tomes and Yoga Journal. With some friends, I started an irreverent, snarky website devoted to making fun of the more hypocritical elements of the yoga industry. It was called Recovering Yogi.
Eventually, I stopped going to yoga classes and I stopped meditating. I stopped consciously practicing the 8 Limbs, at least in a focused way. I gave away my neti pot. I met my husband, one of the few people I’ve met in the last decade who isn’t involved with yoga in any way. I moved to Utah. I got pregnant. I had twins. I stopped going yoga at all.
I felt relieved.
But then, my back started to hurt. It got cold here. I remembered how nice it was to stretch out in a warm classroom with zen lighting and a soft-voiced teacher devoted to my wellbeing for one solid hour. So, like I said, back to yoga.
Except this time, I really get it. I get how it is to be old, and fat, and feel vaguely arthritic, and to know that gravity has finally won, and I am never going to achieve that dream of having flat abs. That is simply never going to happen.
Once, I wore tiny little spandex shorts and proudly acrobatted around in the front row of a sweaty Bikram studio in the suburbs of Seattle. Now, I dig around in my husband’s t-shirt drawer for the loosest, longest shirt I can find and layer it over a maternity tank and my biggest, most stretched-out leggings.
Once, I pathologically calculated how many days a week I could shoehorn a tough, sweaty yoga class into my schedule, doubling up if I needed to in order to always hit my marks. Now, I forlornly leave my nanny, my mom, or my husband with the girls to schlep off to the shortest class I can find on a Monday evening. I spend the entire class wondering if my daughters are okay, imagining scenarios in which they need to be rushed to the ER and I have the car with the car seat bases and no one can reach me. Did I tell them the name of the studio? Would Jon be able to figure out where I would have gone? Will they answer the phone at the front desk in an emergency?
Once, I went early to yoga to get “a good spot” and hung around after class to see and be seen. Now, I am the very last person to arrive, and end up in the deplorable front-middle spot, under a very unforgiving spotlight, where not just I but every single person in the class can scrutinize my every inch of cellulite.
This. This is yoga. I get it now.