Confessions of a Reluctant Yogi
by Rachel Kaye AckermanI do not have a magical, love-at-first-asana yoga story. After an hour of intense, shaky postures and stretches, I panted with exhaustion, horizontal at last. Everyone else seemed blissed out in the final resting pose, savasana, but I failed to catch that vibe. I was too busy breaking out in hives.
All over my body, angry welts puffed out in protest. I resisted the urge to scratch and inspect, loathe to disrupt the serenity of the sculpted yogis around me. If hell is a quiet and motionless place, I had somehow stumbled upon it. As soon as possible, I snuck away, vowing never to return. The hives never returned either, dissipating within a few hours. Whatever triggered them remains a mystery, but my response was unequivocal fear and avoidance.
Flash forward fifteen years and fifteen-plus pounds. In a stroke of serendipity, my workplace offered lunchtime yoga. With equal parts hesitance and desperation, I unfurled my mat again. A sedentary lifestyle had done me no favors; I was as weak and wobbly as ever. I abhorred boat pose with a venomous passion, and my trees toppled with all the grace of a drunken toddler. Sweet savasana could not come soon enough. It didn't take long, however, before the twice-a-week, thirty minute sessions became a refuge from my stress. The stretching, the exhaustion, and the soothing voice of my instructor took me to a place of deep calm. Despite my notorious aversion to physical challenge, I kept dragging myself back to the mat~and yoga kept offering compelling reasons to stay and deepen my practice.
Prior to yoga, I noticed my body for primarily negative reasons: pain, discomfort, disgust. I hoarded tension in my jaw, my shoulders, and my back. I became a regular at the chiropractor's office. At times, my neck was so out of whack, I couldn't turn my head to speak to someone in the back seat of a car. Shielding my knobby knees and freakish toes from public scrutiny, I refused to wear shorts and sandals for years.
These days, my naked toes make regular appearances at Yoga Story, and I appreciate how their extraordinary length roots me to the earth. I relish feelings that never registered before: energy coursing through my form, the exquisite release of relaxing muscles, the cleansing detox of dripping sweat. My spine has grown supple; my chiropractor has become a stranger. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for a healthy body that still knows how to grow stronger, more flexible, more fluid, and more alive.
Buoyed by yogic meditations on a off the mat, my gratitude even extends to the lesson of those long-ago hives. As an educator, I know discomfort and challenge serve as powerful learning catalysts~provided one responds with a growth mindset instead of fear. Before my yoga journey began in earnest, however, I did not apply that understanding to my own flesh. Now, I live this lesson daily. I am committed to a lifelong yoga practice. Now, at age 43, I am stronger in mind, body, and spirit than ever before.