I pad barefoot into the studio, the heat enfolding me immediately, noticeable but not oppressive. I fiddle with the placement of my mat, then my towel, then my water bottle. I’ve plopped, imagining myself graceful, in the back row near the door — that strategy I do remember. It’s been four years.
The last time I sat like this, trying to dial in my breathing in preparation for a hot yoga class, was right before my first pregnancy. I’m different now, in some ways. Will this feel different? I wonder, shifting positions, watching others enter the room, this room where the warmth is at once a welcome and a challenge. We wear masks, we have our mats spaced a safe distance apart, but other than that?
I learn. It’s still yoga, as the teacher appears and guides us into the opening poses. My goal: stay in the room. Focus on breathing. If the edge looms too close, ease on back. I follow along, breathing. Breathing. My intention for this class: love myself.
I notice my body in the mirror, extending, twisting, lifting, bending, holding. This body has run many miles. This body has nurtured and delivered two lives. This body is unique and wondrous and strong and full of surprises and beauty. I notice the other bodies in the room; no two are the same.
The sweat beads and drips off me and I relish it. My body quietly signals me several times to recalibrate, so I do, stepping back into the flow when I’m ready. It doesn’t feel like a big deal. Nothing feels like a big deal in this moment. It’s just my breath and my body.
I walked into this studio because I felt an inner creak, a grimy dustiness that I knew only a fresh physical challenge could expel. It had been four years. I was nervous. But I knew.
I walked out renewed and rejuvenated.
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what our bodies can do. We need to uncover, expand, contract, open, close, challenge, peer into the places we’ve forgotten or never even seen.
Sometimes we need to let ourselves be surprised.