Fifteen is half my life as a yogi.
“Oh, come on! At least give it a try. You’re young! How old are you?” the teacher asked the girl who had been pulled along to her mother’s yoga class.
“Fifteen,” the girl answered awkwardly, as 15-year-olds who’ve been put on the spot are wont to do.
“Fifteen! That is awesome,” the teacher assured her. To the rest of us she posed the question: “Can you imagine finding yoga at 15?”
Huh. That would be something, I suppose. Finding yoga at 15…
Had that been my case, I would now have been doing yoga for exactly half my life. Instead, I’ve been doing yoga on and off for about five years and really getting serious in the last year-and-a-half.
Had I fallen for yoga as an awkward teen as I have as an awkward adult, I may have made a career out of my practice. I toy with the thought of teacher trainings now; what if I had pulled the trigger on that before I could legally buy a drink? Perhaps I would be traveling the world (as I assume everyone who finds yoga at 15 probably does), sharing this passion. I’d be damn near enlightened. I probably would not Google “adult acne cures” as often as I do. Have you seen some of these yogis? Glowing.
Finding yoga at 15…I like to imagine. But I needed to get back to my asana.
I returned to this thought accidentally the next day. I had just woken up after ignoring the alarm clock that sounded an hour earlier—the one I set so I wouldn’t miss the Saturday morning yoga class. Oops. I bet if I found yoga at 15 I wouldn’t have to do that.
But you know, there are things I would have missed out on had I been into yoga at such a young age. There were awkward, cringe-inducing, painful occurrences I would not have had that make me appreciate my newfound practice. For instance:
As a 15-year-old cheerleader, I was at the pinnacle of my own physical flexibility. Seeing pictures from that time often make me tilt my head and crease my brow in wonderment at the contortion that my body was able to pull off. Was that an optical illusion?
Had I nurtured that flexibility, I probably would never get out of bed with the stiffness caused by eight hours in front of a computer—shoulders slumped, back rounded, neck tense. However, I also never would have felt the relief that comes with alleviating that pain naturally. I relish every extra millimeter I’m able to find in shoulder and hip opening poses, and there’s something to be said about the beauty in fighting through the pain to find the reward.
As much as I try to fight it, as people—and women especially—we’re hardwired to be aware of what we look like. When what we look like doesn’t look like what we’re told we should look like (See? This sh*t is hard!), it leads to a myriad of issues. At best we feel badly about ourselves. At worst, bodily dysmorphia and eating disorders play havoc on the sufferers and their loved ones.
Yoga has helped me feel that while I will always be my biggest critic (ugh, pun not intended), the scale means less when I feel good about myself. Surviving—then thriving—in an Ashtanga class, or bearing—then craving—the heat of a Baptiste practice makes me feel strong and accomplished. I don’t feel the need to run to the scale. Working on a new inversion, and finally getting into it puts that silly number into perspective. Who cares? This body is strong and I’m taking care of it in ways that far surpass opting for the chemical sh*tstorm of a low-fat cookie.
I don’t know if body acceptance at 15 is even possible, but had I found yoga at that impressionable age, it’s worth the argument that I could have lived a little more comfortably in my own skin. Learning how to appreciate myself and actively trying to be healthier is a process that is ongoing, and I have to say, the learning curve isn’t half bad.
When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Take a Breath
Oh, Lord, my 15-year-old self was dramatic. I missed a phone call?! I can’t go to the mall?! Meatloaf? For dinner?! This can be blamed on hormones, surely, but what is my 30-year-old excuse? While I’ve certainly mellowed in my old age, I still lean toward the crazy when the climate is right.
Age isn’t the only thing that’s mellowed me. Anyone who’s taken a yoga class knows the focus that’s placed on breath.”The pose begins when you’re ready to get out,” is a favorite saying at my home studio. Focus on the breath, rather than on your failing quadricep muscles that will strengthen your warrior poses. That same idea will prevent a disagreement over whose turn it is to take out the trash from escalating into a shouting match; or prevent your six-year-old niece from learning a string of expletives when she’s within earshot of your stubbed toe.
In the moment, I thought those teenage rants were both reasonable and rational. However, with the passage of a decade and a half I am getting closer to admitting that I could have maybe brought it down a notch.
Finding yoga (and thus this fancy breathin’ skill), at 15 would have saved me from looking like a lunatic in the eyes of countless spectators. And my parents wouldn’t have wasted so much time wondering how badly I was damaged. I’m sure anyone who knew the 15-year-old me was forced to take plenty of deep breaths in my presence. I’m sure they all would have appreciated the reciprocation.
My yoga practice has shown me the light on many things. Had I always been dancing in the sunshine, though, I wouldn’t have the wisdom that comes with grooving through the storms. It takes light and rain to grow. I get that, and I’ve come to love that. But still, finding yoga at fifteen: Can you imagine?!
Lindsay Jensen lives in Nashville where she is constantly trying to hatch a plot to break out of her cubicle and spend more time writing things. She can also be found hanging out with her husband, their dog (a Golden Retriever named Handsome), reading, doing yoga, wandering around libraries, or any combination of the above.
Editor: Edith Lazenby