Ever since I can remember, I have been afraid to try Yoga.
As a matter of fact, you may have even have read my comedy piece right here on elephant journal called, “Naked Yoga People & Why They Scare Me.” And while this may have been a humorous article, it is all true.
There is just something about the way that yoga people even walk around all limber and peaceful that scares me.
As a Jew, I have also always been paranoid of anyone who seems too relaxed or happy.
But, as my new goal in life is to conquer all my fears, excluding traveling to the Middle East, eating anything gluten-free and dating women, but not necessarily in that order, I decided to try yoga. No letters please.
What really pushed me to start doing Yoga was that I literally had trouble moving one day. I woke up, checked my iPhone for emails, news, Facebook, Instagram comments and alerts from CNN about NFL criminals, and then prepared to get up and go pee, but I could barely move.
I had to roll over sideways and use my nightstand as a walker as I stumbled into my bathroom that seemed 1,000 feet away.
Okay, I had had it!
The next day I would try that friendly local yoga class with all of the granola neighbors and be cooperative.
I kept thinking about how relatives on both sides of my family would make fun of me for even trying. My father would say, “Oh really now! It’s not enough that you have moved to Northern California, now you have to become a hippie too?”
And my mother, “Make sure you see a doctor and get a full physical first. These yoga types might make you do some unnatural poses and you’ll end up in the hospital, God forbid.”
And my ex-husband, “You are going to try yoga! Hah, that is the funniest thing I have ever heard. Call me when you actually follow through!”
And my sister, “You’re going to try another kind of class? Just make sure to wear something decent for a change, yoga isn’t about getting a hot date, you know.”
So you see why I may have some issues with attempting to start this ancient and mindful practice, as everyone in my family is out of their mind?
The next morning, I woke up and could barely move again, but I had Advil waiting for me on the floor, as you will remember that my nightstand was now near the bathroom since I had been using it as my walker.
I washed my face and did not put on makeup, as I wanted to look natural, and I tried on my closest thing to yoga pants that I owned—a soft pair of black stretchy leggings that were from the Target.
And then I actually got the nerve up to drive the whole mile and a half to the local gym near my daughter’s high school. My fear at this moment was that I might run into super moms who are really good at yoga while wearing tight expensive yoga pants from Nordstrom’s as they laugh at me and say, “Oh, Francesca, I didn’t know that you had a healthy lifestyle,” as they sip their wheat grass drinks and stretch their perfect yoga feet with their french-tip toes and toe rings.
But that didn’t happen.
Instead, a bunch of really nice older women, and women like me who are not so young—but younger than old—began to sit down on funny little plastic bright squishy things they called Yoga mats.
I went and borrowed a blue one from the pile while I was being smiled at more than the day I got married, about 2,000 years ago, after which I have been crying ever since.
A beautiful woman who was about six-feet tall with tattoos and blonde slicked-back hair then stood at the front of the room and started playing East Indian-sounding music while she told us all to forgive ourselves.
How did she know I had to forgive myself? Had she been talking to my therapist, my rabbi, my UPS man?
After that she asked us all to simply lay down on our mats and breathe in and out. After only about five minutes, I felt like I had taken a one-hour nap and was so relaxed.
Just when I almost started to fall asleep, she asked us to sit up and cross our legs. I got a little scared again for just a minute and almost left the room, but I stayed because I didn’t want everyone to see the the holes in my Target pants. What?…They were on the sale rack for only $3.50!
We then proceeded to breathe again as a whole class, in and out, out and in, all in perfect unity.
I felt as if I were on a relaxing ship navigating the Hawaiian islands, and I continued to follow the instructions of the teacher and watch other students in the class.
Some women barely moved at all while they just sat peacefully breathing. A couple others were semi-hardcore and stretching their bodies like human pretzels, and there were even a couple of elderly men who seemed to be getting their groove on as they were the minority among a lot of sweaty and scantily clad women who were breathing hard, if you know what I mean.
By the end of the class, I felt as if I had been on a month-long vacation without all the baggage that goes along with it.
We ended the class by “intending” to say nice things for the day, think only positive thoughts and to love ourselves, no matter what.
Can someone explain to me just why I have been spending a fortune on therapy and doctors poking me?
Okay, sorry if that last line sounded a bit wrong.
But seriously and spiritually, I have not been the same since, and continued to make it to four more classes last week.
It has changed my life in more ways than one or two. I finally know that it’s okay to breathe, to sit still and to not feel guilty for doing so.
I have also met some great people, not all of them granola or gluten-free types, which I am not even scared of anymore.
Next week, I plan to ask one of my new friends in the class what gluten even is, and if I should be free from it too.
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Editor: Travis May
Photo: elephant archives