Yogi of the Month ~ Rachel Ackerman

Confessions of a Reluctant Yogi
by Rachel Kaye Ackerman

I 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.





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