After working a 12-hour on-my-feet wedding crew shift yesterday, I went home and sunk into my bathtub with a glass of wine. Several minutes of soaking later (enough so the bubbles died down) I brought myself to read my text messages, one of which was from my running buddy Alexis.
Think I’d rather skip a trail run tomorrow and do yoga instead. Any interest in going to Kimber’s class with me?
I’ve been verifiably curious about Kimber since her book, Full, managed to revamp my entire way of thinking. Plus, a friend of mine had once told me she sang during class (which he assumed I wouldn’t like. And granted, nine months ago, that may have been true). But I love singing, especially group singing (it’s a family thing. You should have seen my mom’s birthday party this year. Over an hour of appetizers and belting out standards with a ukelele player).
So I agreed to go.
The first thing that happened was I wondered what to wear. The only yoga-like pants I own are known for being see-through in the back. Which is fine. I’d wear black underwear and suck it up. However, while standing in my apartment I looked in the mirror and noticed that the tight pants hugged every crevice of my body. Every single one. Even the contours between my legs.
You have to be kidding me. Not only was I going to half-moon it to the world, I was also going to camel toe it too? What, was I going to somehow become the world’s next humiliating meme?
Alexis assured me this was normal as I tugged my T-shirt down.
Upon entering the yoga room, I was struck by one feature I’m not sure I’ve seen in any exercise room: there were no mirrors. No mirrors means that it’d be hard for me to see if I was doing positions correctly – if my hips were flat, if my hands didn’t look ridiculous, if a hair was out of place….hmmm. Maybe this whole no mirror thing was going to actually be helpful.
I flattened my yoga-sitting-device as Kimber played something that was a mixture of a keytar and an instrument you’d expect a yogic elephant to be proficient at. She crooned consonants and syllables I didn’t understand, pausing to say “let’s all sing a chorus of Amazing Grace.”
The room filled with notes. Bass. Tenor. Alto. Soprano. As it came to an end, I felt scared shitless – I was about to do something I am verifiably bad at, without a mirror, in front of strangers, and in the presence of someone I have great respect for.
However, with the idea of Amazing Grace in my mind: that we are sometimes lost and other times found, that we fear and are relieved, I had the hope that this was going to go well.
The class began with talking. I like listening – the idea of lectures gets me giddy – and joy resonated from her speech. Mindfulness. Compassion. Kindness for yourself. All the idea of her book, the ideas that have been floating around in my head, came forth like a Sunday sermon of sorts – a very different Sunday sermon than I grew up with.
Yoga itself is not easy for me. Despite actually having okay balance and being sort of flexible, my body has never enjoyed contorting itself into any yoga-infused pose. However, never were we told we were doing something wrong. Encouraged to move our bodies one way or another, sure. Yet never “not that way…this way.”
All the while, Kimber gently directing and gently cheering, more forcefully suggesting we exist right in the moment we were in and bask in, as Mary Oliver calls it, our “wild and precious life.”
Having a consistent reminder to let go of my self criticism, to not judge myself, to notice my thoughts without getting entangled with them, was powerful. Sure, I was not good at yoga. But I was me at yoga.
As a class, we each took a partner to practice “wheel pose” with. My partner, Kit, had me hold her ankles and attempt to push myself into the pose. Scared, I wasn’t able to fully straighten my arms.
“You’re so close,” she told me. “I think you can do it if you let go of your fear.”
I watched her from above, seeing her practiced body lift into an arch that reminded me of childhood and strength, and wanted that feeling not just from without but within.
We practiced wheel pose separately for a spell, and I felt myself go from bent arms to straight ones, a smile on my face and arched through my back. I used to just lean back with my hands and catch myself in this exact pose, when I fancied becoming a gymnast. Funny how the challenge of being able to do it now made me so much more grateful to have the power to bend. I didn’t take it for granted.
Back down on the ground, in the resting pose, Kimber picked up her elephant’s keytar, singing us into the present.