A fistful of frosted night air punched across my cheek as I crossed the parking lot. A shiver slithered down my spine. Drifts of lost snowflakes danced aimlessly in a street lamp. I’d rather be home, I thought, as I tugged the yoga studio door open against a resistant gust of wind.
Entering the Tranquil Space studio in Arlington, subtle hints of lavender and incense quickly brought me far far away from the brutal outdoors – I’d entered a whole other, more awesome universe. I checked in at the front desk, shimmied out of my shoes and excess layers of clothing and slipped into the warm wood-paneled “Rain” room, just as the instructor finished announcements.
About twenty young females sprawled over their mats, bending their long limbs at various angles – showing off their flexibility. Instinctively, I tip-toed towards the back of room, rolling out my purple mat in a spot in the far righthand corner of the room, as far away from the web of yogis as possible. I wanted to be invisible, or at least as conspicuous as possible. It had been a year since I’d attended a yoga class.
The instructor, a young upbeat blonde woman began by asking us to forget everything that was going on in our life, she said “Just for now, forget about the Holidays and whatever else is weighing on your mind.” My stomach clenched, Oh goodness, the Holidays! Her reminder to forget reminded me to remember. I have so much to do, I thought, I shouldn’t be wasting my time here.
Next, she instructed us to breathe into three different places. “First, breathe into your stomach, then into your rib cage, then into your lungs.” I closed my eyes and lifted my stomach up, filling it with the fresh warm calming energy. Next, the energetic breath rolled up my chest, lungs and throat. My neck and head relaxed onto the mat. Goosebumps formed on my forearms. It was a simple exercise – yet breathing never seemed so deliciously complex. In a way, I felt as if I was breathing for the first time – letting new air reach places in my body I’d forgot air could go.
After this, we moved into traditional yoga flow exercises and twist positions. The various positions’ names were familiar – Warrior One, Warrior Two, Downward Dog, Plank, Chaturanga, Cobra, Child’s pose. Out of the corner of my eye- I constantly monitored my fellow yogis to make sure I was in the right position.
In a few awkward twisty balance positions, I literally toppled over – catching my balance by reaching out to the conveniently close side wall. Although frazzled with embarrassment, I tried to quiet my ego, reminding myself — So what, Julie, you stink at yoga. Gotta start somewhere! Thankfully, I was in the back of the room, so my fumbling wasn’t too obvious anyway.
I grabbed my right foot and forcefully drew it towards me and placed it on my left knee. My right leg wavered and sprung out of position. “This is a very intense stretch,” the instructor qualified as she bent her chest over her crossed legs, “so if you prefer, you can do a simpler single-leg pigeon pose.”
Although intrigued by the Double Pigeon, I wasn’t ready for it. So while everyone else leaned over their pretzeled legs, I shifted my weight around to take on the original “simpler” Pigeon.
I managed to stay awake through the final minutes of quiet meditation – a rare occurrence for this sleepy yogi. Much to my own surprise, this yoga class turned out to be the most cherished hour of my day. Returning to my car in the parking lot, I barely noticed the frigid conditions, having warmed my body and spirit to face the rest of “life” with a slightly greater sense of peace and strength.