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Back to the Mat

This was originally written in January 2016, but never published. It’s still pretty relevant, so… here it is.

– – – – – –

Empty studio, first one there. One window lets in natural light, but it’s winter in Portland, so it’s cloudy light.

Wood floors, light music. Heat.

This is the noon hot class, after all. 100-something degrees. Not Bikram, but still very sweaty. I prefer this kind. I like leaving drenched in sweat, wiping salt water and feelings from the surface of my skin.

Unroll the mat. Unroll the Yogitoes. Put the water bottle down. Grab a block. Grab a foam roller. Lay on my mat, old and familiar. Think about how much I hope my back pops at least in one or two places in the next hour or so.

Run the foam roller from neck to calves, decide I want to stretch instead.

Stretch. Supine twist. No pops, just pulls.

Other side. Switch again. Think about meditating. Search for mantras I used to know, but can’t remember.

Remember that I always associated a campfire with one particular mantra, because it meant something along the lines of “I release,” or “I offer it up.” Google it later and realize the word I was looking for was svaha. Or Amen.

Find more memories.

Loka samastha sukhino bhavantu.

Om namah shivaya.

Talk myself out of holding any expectations for this class. It’s been over a year since I’ve been on this mat, in this corner, in this studio, in this space. And yet, it was yesterday.

Let go of what feelings I might have, what postures might be difficult, what struggles I may face.

Let go of the sounds and presence of other people entering the room. Welcome people into the space near me (rather than hoping they give me space, give me distance, don’t pop my yoga bubble). Let go of who or what I expect the teacher to be, how I expect her to guide.

Let go, basically of everything but my breath and my commitment to follow instructions.

Lights dim. Music changes. Teacher greets.

And we begin.

– – – –

Somewhere in all of that, and in the hour that followed, I felt like I snapped out of something. Or, maybe I snapped back into something.

Yeah, like something clicked into place.

Something that had been misplaced or buried for awhile.

I remembered what it felt like to lay, twist, sit, stand, reach, stretch, open, and curl in these classes. I remember what postures evoked feelings, and I remembered where I was at various points in my life in different postures.

The last time I’d done yoga, I was working through a lot of things that involved my relationships to other people.

Healing. Accepting. Repair. Relation.

Today, any introspection I was doing, any yoga nuggets of wisdom I was absorbing were towards myself. Progress? Maybe. Different? Absolutely.

Today, something clicked back into place. It felt like I came home, like I stepped back into myself again. The next hour was, for all intents and purposes, exactly what I expected, for having zero expectations.

Some parts felt amazing, open, long, lean, stretched. Some parts were uncomfortable. I do not have the balance I once had (oh, the yoga:life metaphors!). My hamstrings are tight as fuck. Because of that, I skipped entire vinyasas in favor of hanging out in down dog a little longer.

I checked the clock a couple of times, once at the half hour mark, another with 20 minutes to go. I wasn’t in a hurry to be done, but my brain needed some idea of how much further my body had to go. I didn’t get my ass kicked, but it wasn’t easy. I liked existing in that happy medium place, and within the first few minutes of class (and for its entire duration), I was already eager to get back to the next one.

I’d been missing that whole feeling of belonging where you are, lately. A decade ago, I fucked up a financial situation through a series of lazy and ignorant decisions. I’ve been paying for it in the years since (of course), despite living mostly consequence-free for exactly the number of years needed to grow comfortable in that. In the past few years, I have made a very conscious effort to dig myself out of this debt hole, and in doing so, I’m bringing all of those old decisions (or, as has often been the case, lack of decisions), to the surface, and it is painful. There are many. The process is humbling, overwhelming, embarrassing, and scary.

I had an interesting dream a couple of nights ago. In this dream, there appeared two signs of good fortune:

First, I won $1,441 via lottery ticket.

Second, I found a bag of receipts (handwritten!) from the office supply business my grandfather owned and ran for years.

I woke up thinking I had to go to the bank to deposit that cash (in $20 bills). I made plans around that cash for a solid half hour before I realized it was a dream. I’ve been holding onto that feeling — that I had an unexpected large-ish sum of money that I needed to bank — along with the one of prosperity and success (from finding the receipts of my grandfather’s business). Wealth, unexpected income, success, prosperity, financial security. My dream was full of these images and feelings. Not worry or anxiety over past mistakes, present concern, and future planning.

Ease, peace, wealth. Very different than the feelings I’ve been confronting in my waking hours.

Finding my way back to my yoga mat opened up channels inside of me that have long been lazy or dormant, and I am not taking that relationship between those energy channels and my subconscious’s good fortune lightly. I’m just not.

– – –

Empty house. Glass of wine. Music. Couch.

Open laptop, open Pages. Write, for the sake of writing, because you missed it. Journal. Use names, don’t protect the innocent or the guilty. Say what you mean. Say what you feel.

Realize you just wrote something you could share. It could be edited, for clarity or something, but it’ll work. Sign into blog. Add post. Copy, paste, edit.

Don’t bother proofreading, really. This isn’t journalism, it’s your heart. Let it exist out here as it does in the world.


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I needed that workout to be terrible.

I didn’t realize it when I walked in, but I needed that workout to suck. I needed it to be absolutely terrible.

I needed moments that I hated, moments in which I was uncomfortable, moments where I wanted to quit.

I mean, I didn’t want that. I wasn’t thinking that when I walked in after my cute little morning routine of writing, meditating, and positive affirmations. A little nagging voice of self-doubt and big fears started to surface, and I wrote and wrote, and mediated a little, and positively affirmed my way through it, with little luck.

I walked to class reciting the same positive affirmations over and over, even if I didn’t quite believe them yet.

I walked in feeling okayyyyy. Not better, but not worse. The coach outlined the format of the upcoming workout. Ok, I thought. No biggie.

Until we got through the first segment and I wanted to die.

Until we rowed for the first time and I couldn’t feel my legs, and then we had to go up and do more running.

Until we finished running and then did squats and then did more rowing and then more running and more burpees (death to burpees) — and WAIT.

Oh my god, did I do a real, actual, not-on-my-knees push-up for the first time? and the second time? and the third? Am I doing push-ups?! OMG.

And then the rowing and the running and all of the things all over again and I hated all of it. None of it gave me that runners’ high, none of it made me feel like I was strong or capable. Not until the very end when I literally just thought, THANK GOD that is over. I’m over it. I’m done. I want to go home.

I needed that to suck.

I needed to straight. up. hate my workout today to remember that it is okay that things are hard sometimes. It’s okay for a challenge to lose its luster, for hard work to be hard work. It’s ok, because we can do hard things.

The workout was absolutely the hardest yet for me, since I started attending classes at Orange Theory back in January. From one circuit to the next, over and over, pushing limits.

Usually, even in the toughest tests of my physical endurance, I can find something to push to, something to hold on to, and something to keep me going. I can laugh even though I’m exhausted. I can remind myself that this will pass, that I’ll be done soon, that I’m building muscle, losing fat, strengthening my mental and physical endurance, getting better. I can push myself with confidence.

Today didn’t feel like that. Today was just straight up fucking hard, and I had a real hard time admitting that. I’m doing good things for myself and my health, I should be happy about that, right? And then the inner negotiations begin:

I am choosing to be here. I chose this. I’m here because I decided to do this.

But I don’t want to be. I want to be done. I want it to be over. I don’t like this. I don’t want to be doing this.

It was somewhere on the rower that at this point in my life, in this week, I realized I needed this to be hard. My morning was hard, there were fears and doubts and stress. I needed the workout to be hard. I needed to remind myself that it is okay to struggle, it’s okay to be uncomfortable, and it’s okay to get frustrated. Because even in the middle of all of it, I knew it would end eventually. And I knew I’d do it (even if it meant not feeling my legs for days after).

I needed the reminder that it is OKAY that things are hard sometimes, because we can do hard things. They won’t always be, they will pass, and I do have, within me, the ability to push through it. I have the endurance it takes, I have the resilience, and I have the perspective. I have the strength. It’s tough, it’s terrible in the moment sometimes, but it won’t feel that way forever. In fact, it won’t feel that way for much longer. I can get through it (so can you).

I came out of that class feeling the same way I do after a yoga class that decided to focus a lot of hip openers. Emotionally open. Emotionally wrecked. Feeeeeeeelingsy. I thought I might cry, but not really for any specific reason other than something had been unlocked inside me.

It’s okay to struggle, because hey, guess what? I did make it through that class. I did run when I thought I couldn’t any more. I kept rowing when I thought my legs were going to give out. I even did a few push-ups (real ones!) for the FIRST TIME probably ever in my whole life.

I didn’t need it to be terrible because I wanted to punish myself; I needed it to be terrible so I could remember that it’s okay that somethings are terrible.

Later that day, feeling at least a little encouraged, I — for some reason, I don’t know why — I pictured myself going though my day like a character in an 8-bit video game. I was walking along this linear course, dodging, jumping over, and zapping little bugs coming at me. It’s how I pictured handling the rest of my day. Some strategy and foresight would come in handy, but overall, it just came down to being decisive in the moment. And an inner monologue that comes with sound effects.

Pew, pew. Pew, pew, pew.

A little love for the OTF

*I joined Orange Theory Fitness here in Portland back in January. I can’t speak highly enough about how much I enjoy the community, the classes, the coaches, and the results I’ve seen since. I can’t speak strongly enough about how much my life, my health, my wellness, and my emotional stability of improved since I started (coupled with some one-on-one wellness coaching I’ve committed to as well). To avoid the Kool-Aid talk here, I’ll continue to reference this as my gym or my workout and leave the lingo back in the classes, but if anyone wants to talk to me about it or has questions or just wants to talk about it with me, I will always always always be excited to talk about OTF. (As a note, I’ve lost 15 pounds since January, that I attribute largely to my commitment to OTF as well as some significant dietary changes.)

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