We all carry some secrets, large and small.
The small ones are universal. They are the everyday thoughts we keep quiet as we walk around doing whatever it is that we do.
And what I do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning is yoga.
For the most part, the practice clears my head. Whatever is on my mind seems to leave through the music and the movement.
After one such practice, a fellow yogi walked up to me to compliment my poses.
How long have you been doing yoga? he asked.
A timely question, as my two-year anniversary was the very next week, and I told him so.
Well, he said, I just watch your poses, and I’m not sure I’m ever going to get there.
That would have been a good time to reveal some of my inner yoga thoughts; however, I just thanked him instead.
He introduced himself and explained to me that he was not sure he would be able to advance in the way he saw my practice, so in return I did make the small confession that when I started, I knew from nothing.
What I did not tell him were my yoga secrets.
The first of which is how very self conscious and out of my league I felt at the beginning.
I had never before exercised, and I found myself—especially on Friday mornings—in a class of mostly women with what I saw as intimidating arm muscles.
They all seemed younger and looked like they had worked out for most of their lives, which no doubt they had.
So, instead I just told him that when I first arrived at yoga I was extremely cautious of my back, and that I was resistant to trying a lot of poses, especially the backbends.
Another fact I kept under wraps was that I was sort of inhibited at the beginning.
And yoga pretty much demands the dismissal of inhibition.
We put our bottoms in the air, lift our legs and open our hips, squat down with our knees apart, and lean back and open our chests to the sky.
It was almost all too much—plus the instructor would come along and adjust us.
And that’s another thing I kept to myself.
Even more than being intimidated or inhibited was the fact that I was someone who most likely had her guard up higher than anyone around.
I was and still am very cautious of anyone who gets close.
Having someone approach to move my arm or tilt my shoulder or adjust my hip was not really in my comfort zone, to say the least.
So, instead, I just told this man that, at the beginning, I was afraid to try a lot of the poses, too.
It’s difficult to explain what yoga has done for me, so I don’t really say much about that.
And my strategy from the beginning was to just keep coming back.
And I’ve been on a ride ever since.
Slowly, I eased my way into the practice, letting go of intimidation, letting go of inhibition, and letting go of my guard.
Yoga sort of broke me open. And that’s really how I started to advance.
I don’t say any of this to the morning yogi speaking with me.
Instead, I tell him not to be afraid to try the poses, even if he thinks he can’t do them. I tell him that one day, he’ll get it and then his body will always remember it.
His response was to tell me that I was inspiring.
I said a quick thanks and got ready to leave, thinking he should only know what I say to myself during some parts of the practice.
The music and the movement might clear my mind for the most part, but not for all the parts.
When it’s time for Dancer pose, a heart opener and standing Backbend, I say in my head, Oh, no, Dancer!
When it is time for Lizard pose, a hip opener into which I’m learning to take an inversion, I say in my head, Oh, no, Lizard!
These openers are rough, in more ways than one!
It’s hard to open if there are some broken parts.
But there’s a theory of sorts about how these breaks create the spaces through which the light gets in.
So, maybe it is good to be broken open, even if it means dreading Dancer and Lizard.
And I guess through yoga I have created some such openings, letting in some light to free me from the intimidation, inhibition and guardedness with which I arrived.
And this freedom has been very healing.
Still, I do not say a word about this to my fellow yogi. Some things are better left quiet.
And, besides, he’s only at the beginning of the yoga ride, so there’s still time for his light to shine through, too.
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger