January 2, 2014

How I Met Yoga. ~ Katie Ratchuk

As I took child’s pose to start my practice one recent morning, the thought occurred to me that yoga has been pretty good to me.

Nope, I do not have a six pack or buns you can bounce quarters off (yet). But my dear friend yoga has been a loyal friend.

They say true friends are those who walk into your life when everyone else walks out. Well, I met yoga during what I now refer to it as ‘my sweatpants period.’ I was picking up the pieces of a failed marriage, living back home and committed to eating nothing but an ice cream scoop each day.

I was reluctantly dragged (in my sweatpants) to a power yoga class one day by a friend whom I will be forever indebted to. I struggled through it—partially because of the lack of nourishment I’m sure. It did not feel great. But, as I walked to my car after class, I realized it was the first time I had stopped feeling sad.

For the duration of the 90 minute class, my thoughts and heartache escaped me. So I found myself in that tiny, hot little room day after day. If I can just get myself through the studio doors, I would promise myself, I will feel better in an hour.

I allowed it to be my escape, and I found safety and security in that small mat-space. Like the “safe” spot in a game of tag, I was free from the monsters of my mind there. My life felt out of control, but the 71” x 26” of my mat were manageable.

Just like an old friend, yoga greeted me with love and acceptance each day. Yoga didn’t ask me why I’d lost weight or gained it, why I missed class the day before, why I was wearing an over-sized pair of men’s sweatpants to a 90 degree yoga class or why I was taking child’s pose instead of crow. Yoga just flung its doors open and waved me in.

To say that yoga moved me through a difficult time in my life may be an overstatement, but it may also be an understatement. I have wonderful family and friends that loved me through that transition. But yoga allowed me to see myself again; to shed away all the layers that had accumulated and remind me who I really was. Just like family does, yoga helped me pick up the pieces and put them back in place.

But nothing is ever the same.

There is always a reshaping that takes place when things fall apart. The new shape is uncomfortable and even painful at first. That’s the change. So you hold on to your support system through the change.

I held tight to my family and friends, and my newest friend yoga. And they walked beside me through the mud. Like a baby learning to walk, I took three steps forward and one step back each day. But yoga, my family and my friends helped me up each time, wiped the dirt off and sent me on my way.

I met a new friend who made my soul sing, if only for 90 minutes a day. And so I, out of purely selfish motives, went to visit yoga every chance I got, and eventually began teaching as well.

I found a home at the studio. Sometimes I would bound through the front door, belting out my new class play-list and practicing cartwheels, other times dragging myself to the door, heavy with stress. But in either extreme, yoga greeted me the same. Sometimes I brought my sisters, my mom, my friends and even boyfriends.

Most times, I came alone.

My practice was different every day, I could count on being wrapped in yoga’s love each time I chose to visit the studio. What’s even more amazing is realizing that the people on the surrounding mats were my old friends too.

We may have never spoken before, but friends still, because they too were there to visit yoga. Sometimes heavy with heartbreak, sometimes light with joy, we all meet there on our mat and leave our luggage at the door for one hour.

Sometimes we smile or even laugh during our practice. Sometimes we fly, glimpsing if for a moment at the capabilities of our amazing bodies and minds. Sometimes we cry, we fight our inner dialogue and stumble out of our poses. But yoga doesn’t care. And neither do the sweet souls around you. They’re all just glad you are there.

So, as we move into the new year, I vow to visit my loyal, loving friends at the studio more consistently. And it’s almost purely selfish, because each time I visit, I will feel a tiny reshaping take place.

Yoga taught me to see and accept all of my life and myself … the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Yoga reminded me of my wonder when I had forgotten. I love yoga because yoga loved me when I wasn’t so lovable. And in doing so, yoga allowed me the space to love myself again.

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Assistant Editor: Richard May / Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Ian Bothwell / Flickr.

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