A lot can change in the course of a year.
That was something our instructor talked about a bit at the outset of Tuesday night’s yoga class.
What’s changed for me in 2014? Let’s start here: I was in a yoga class — in a beautiful, candlelit studio — on Dec. 30, about six months after my first tentative attempts at practicing at the Point in May. And that’s not something I ever would have predicted.
But. Yes. I’m still practicing. And it’s made a huge difference.
A remarkable set of unrelated things converged in May to set me on the path I’ve followed since then. On Pittsburgh Marathon day, there was a discussion about music and running and trance — and the suggestion from a friend that I was of the right frame of mind to give yoga a try. A couple weeks later, there was a job offer that came with one terrifying catch — I had to give up tobacco, completely and cold turkey, immediately.
And there was Venture Outdoors Festival, which, among other things, hosted free demo yoga classes at the Point all day long. The same friend who said she thought I would like yoga on marathon day offered to meet me for a 30-minute class or two.
I wasn’t immediately hooked. But I was interested.
While at the Venture Outdoors event, I grabbed a pamphlet from a South Side studio; it offered outdoors classes every Saturday and Sunday during the summer for five bucks a session. To me, that sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to figure out whether or not yoga could be a thing.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the first few classes, but it felt great taking in the stunning view of the city from Mount Washington or spreading out on the grass in the South Side Works. But after a couple weekends, I started coming away from the classes feeling … lighter. Steadier. Things that would normally bug me — especially without the nicotine drip I’d relied on for years to smooth out the rough spots — didn’t have the same kind of grip on my mind and my mood. I found myself feeling disappointed when one of the outdoor classes was rained out. And I found that I was showing up enough that the instructors knew me by name.
And they — Ashley and Paul — were both there once I walked through the door at the studio for my first classes there, along with a group of now-familiar faces — other instructors, the other students who show up regularly for our session first thing every Saturday morning and the couple that runs the studio. The space was immediately comfortable, pretty much what I had hoped a yoga studio would be. And the best part? Before I knew it, I was part of the community that revolves around that space.
Having that kind of support — in that kind of space — makes this process easier. And I need the help: Remembering to breathe. Stretching out my creaky old body as I look for new strength and new length. And — eventually — finding that spot where I’m balanced in crow pose and can hold it for more than a few seconds.
There are other, more important things than trying to avoid (literally) falling on my face. Learning to slow down. Being present. Expressing love and gratitude when I have the opportunity. And shedding at least a portion of the mountain of crap we all seem to collect as we move through our days. Kristi mentioned that last notion during Tuesday’s class and I’ve often felt that way, an addition by subtraction. I’m still figuring out the hows and whys, but it works. I feel it every time I leave the studio and head home.
I’m grateful for the last six months. That it was — and is — BYS Yoga. That it was — and is — Ashley and Paul, and Lynn and Jody and Kristi. That I had that first conversation with Jenny. And that Mrs. Crappy has been so supportive.
Yoga has already changed me, but there is so much more to explore. In 2015, I intend to keep looking.