Often times when people are considering starting a yoga practice they ask me how and when I started practicing. Thinking back I began realize how my first yoga class was a pivotal moment in my life that started me on a path towards healing, towards love.
I had gone to a handful of yoga classes at different fitness centers but I had never been to an actual yoga class at a yoga studio until summer of 2014. I had moved to Nashville at the start of the new year with my husband and our beloved puppy. We both found jobs and a nice apartment and had settled in nicely. It was our clean slate, our fresh start, the reset button, and a new beginning in a new city. It's difficult to look back on that time and imagine who I was then and what that life felt like because so much has changed.
The following July, my brother was listed as a missing person and after five days of searching we discovered that he had committed suicide. The world shook and then time stood still. I can still feel it in my chest, that heavy searing emptiness. It's hard to explain what it feels like to lose a sibling... it was like the whole context of my life shifted, the lens I saw the world through was changed and I will certainly never be the same.
Three months later, I remember living in a fog. Not sleeping or sleeping too much, and struggling with horrible nightmares. I was terrified of going anywhere but my house and a few hours at my job. I was having flashbacks that would disorient me and cause problems in my relationships. My entire life had changed, everything shifted and I no longer had any idea who I was.
A yoga studio in town near our apartment that had a new student deal running. I don't really know what provoked me to go the first time or how I found the courage to go. I must have read every single word on their website 5 times just to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into (remember? crippling anxiety). somehow I went to Target and bought a cheap pink clearance mat and signed up for class. I was scared shitless, my body had become a place that was extremely uncomfortable to be and I had no idea how I was going to get through 60 mins of physical activity. I remember driving down Charlotte Pike on my way to the studio gripped with fear. I put my hand on the ceiling of my car and I said to the Universe, "You have to meet me half way, you just have to."
I walked in, placed my shoes in a cubby, got the tour, paid my money, was introduced to another new student, and then I went into the yoga room and laid down on my mat. The teacher came in and turned on the music and left again. "Across the Universe" by the Beatles began to play and I clapped my hand over my mouth and felt silent tears roll down the sides of my face. How could my brother's favorite song, one that even played at his funeral be the first song I hear in my first yoga class? My heart was racing and everything in me wanted to run out of the room and go fall apart in the car, but something stopped me. I still don't know if it was just paralyzing anxiety or a deep knowing that I was exactly where I needed to be, but by some miracle I stayed on my mat.
I can't tell you how the rest of the class went because I don't really remember but what I do remember was the other new girl asking me to grab a cup of tea with her afterwards. I remember she also had a pixie haircut and had just moved to town and was feeling lonely. We talked and I remember feeling oddly comfortable with her, I shared that I was not doing very well and a tiny bit about what was going on and I remember she hugged me, not like a little "hi, you're a stranger crying in a coffee shop, are you okay, lemme squeeze your shoulder and pat your back while you pull your shit together". No... she really hugged me and I felt that weight in my chest lessen for a moment.
I kept going back 2 or 3 times a week, and it wasn't always easy, class was hard and triggering and difficult, but it was the only place in my life that I felt remotely safe and very slowly I started to befriend my body again. I plugged into some mental health resources for my PTSD, anxiety and depression, but yoga offered me a path, it showed me how to begin again. When I think of my first yoga class I remember the Universe showing up for me, sending me angels, sending me hope.
Fast forward 4 years and I am now a certified yoga teacher! I had no idea that class would change the trajectory of my life but I will keep saying thank you to myself for being brave enough to get in the car and courageous enough to stay in the room. Honest truth, I'm still friends with that lovely lady who was also brave that day and I'm eternally grateful she was so compassionate to me during such a dark time. Be careful what you ask for, the Universe may meet you a little more than half way . . . and never underestimate the power of kindness and a cup of tea.