To the woman next to me at yoga this morning,
Let me start with an apology. I’m sorry for walking into class late and being immediately annoyed by the fact that you had taken MY spot in front of the door. How dare she. I’m sorry for looking at your long blond hair and equally long and slender arms and legs and inwardly groaning, certain you were simply there to make me feel self-conscious and unsure of myself. I think I might hate you and I don’t even know you. I’m sorry for inwardly rolling my eyes at you when, instead of focusing inward on the work I needed to be doing, I was secretly checking you out from the corner of my eye, trying to calculate if my work was as good as your work, and I noticed you chomping away on a stick of gum as if your life depended on it. How crass. Puhleaaase. Who chews gum in yoga? I’m sorry for feeling threatened and assuming you were trying to be a show off when you started straying from the program and doing your own thing. Who does she think she is?
I’m sorry for all of this, for drawing a picture of you in my head without knowing you at all. I realized I was sorry when I felt you crying next to me. I felt your pain before I heard the quiet sobs that grew into a flood of tears and only subsided with your early exit through the door directly behind you. Maybe I felt it before I heard it because I knew it. You see, that space in front of the door was so important to me because for a long time, I needed that escape hatch, that easy and inconspicuous exit should the need arise. I’ve cried more tears in the darkened corners of yoga studios than I care to admit. That “sweat towel” that joined me in class? Oh, that’s wasn’t for sweat. That was my “just in case I’m lying in Savasana and I feel the tears coming towel”. I throw it over my eyes and pretend I’m just really trying to connect to the Om.
Yoga is tough stuff. People flock to it because it is healing and strengthening and grounding and centering. But the sometimes scary secret about yoga is that the healing and strengthening and grounding and centering happens because yoga forces you to slow down and be quiet and move into the hard spots, the stiff spots, the spots clenched tight, protecting you from what you don’t want to feel and making you listen to what you don’t want to hear. As one of my favorite teachers liked to say, “Whatever is in the way is the way.” You can’t get to the light if you don’t go through the dark spots. So yes, if you are clenched up tight and looking for release, there will be tears on your way to the bliss. And that’s OK.
As you walked out that door today, I said a prayer for you. I wished you peace and love. I wished you courage. Sister, please don’t give up. It’s OK you used the escape hatch today. It’s safe to come back. I’ll make sure your spot is waiting for you next week, and the week after, and the week after that.
Because someone gave up that spot for me a long time ago, giving me a chance to heal, and it’s time I pay it forward.