I’ve been an athlete my entire life, and have grown accustomed to being able to pick up on athletic skills and fundamentals of various activities with ease and quickness. Yoga, however, has always been a challenge for me, and that’s perhaps what I enjoy most about it. I seriously am one of the most inflexible people ever, I can’t do a head stand, heck, sometimes just getting into child’s pose is tough. Various studios I have attended have been super intimidating, and I have walked in feeling self-conscious that I won’t be able to keep up with the others in the class. Other studios, while the instructors have been awesome, leave something to be desired, especially if they don’t play music to accompany the class. I can appreciate silence, as I think everyone does at some point, but if I am doing a yoga class, give me some tunes, whether it be classical or hip-hop, I don’t care, just give me music!
For a few weeks I have been attending yoga classes at the Inner Bliss Yoga Studio in Rocky River, and I believe I have finally found a yoga studio that suits me. The architecture of the building is beautiful, with sliding barn doors, exposed brick and pipes, old windows and wood floors. The instructors are amazing, they come around and adjust our bodies to push us deeper into poses, challenging us to challenge ourselves, all while speaking in gentle voices about the various poses, our breathing, and remembering to love ourselves. And of course they provide a soundtrack to each class that helps me get into a zone where I think only about me, my breathing and pushing myself further. There has never been a single moment in classes where I have felt self-conscious, intimidated, or even bad at yoga.
This past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a 90-minute Vinyasa-Flow class titled ‘All You Need is Love’. This class was enhanced by a Beatles-only playlist. When I found out about the class, I jumped at the opportunity.
Growing up, my parents always had music playing, and good music at that. Whether it was while my Mom was doing the annual spring cleaning, or just whipping up a delicious meal on a Sunday night, it was a safe bet that The Beatles, Sting, George Michael or Stevie Wonder would be crooning from the stereo speakers. My dad, who worked from home, would always have the Oldies station playing on his office radio. Or if he was tinkering around in the garage on a Saturday afternoon, you bet he had his radio filling the room with music. Having grown up in such a great environment, there are so many songs that remind me of my childhood, and my parents, both together and as separate individuals.
I have developed a deep appreciation for all genres of music, but nothing makes me happier than the music my parents listened to. In a world full of auto-tuned, party-themed garbage, it is nice to find so many others who still appreciate quality lyrics and sound, and the yoga studio was filled with those very people for our yoga experience.
With so many people in the room, it was crowded, but not uncomfortable, everyone had enough room for their yoga mats, but as the class wore on, it was getting rather toasty. I seriously have never sweat so much in a non-Bikram yoga class in my life, and it felt sooooo good.
The class from the beginning was filled with the voices and instruments of John, Paul, George & Ringo. I enjoyed challenging my body and mind while listening to and soaking in the lyrics and meanings of so many classic hits. I seriously was having the time of my life. Half-way through the class, I really hit the zone. It all started when we were doing multiple Sun Salutations to the song ‘Here Comes the Sun’, one of my favorites from my childhood. My mind was transported to memories of a child playing in our yard in the warm summer sun, hearing my dad’s stereo playing hits from the British Invasion. This memory filled my heart to the brim with warmth and love. I snapped back to the present in time to hear our instructor speak about the importance of love in our loves, for friends and families, for strangers, for animals and the Earth and also for ourselves. She mentioned how the music of the Beatles were related to all these types of love.
I began thinking about all what she was saying, and focused on that for the remainder of class. After her words of wisdom, I really hit my stride, and even successfully accomplished the Crane pose for the first time in my life! I didn’t even have to think about it, my body just somehow folded up into the pose and held it as long as the instructor told us to. It was such a wonderful feeling, I wanted to bounce out of it and scream that I finally did it! But alas, I restrained myself.
I kept flowing through the poses, thinking happy thoughts and soaking in the awesome music, and then ‘In My Life’ began to play through the studio speakers. I started thinking about things that have occurred in my own life, losing my father 6 years ago, and how I missed him so terribly, especially today, and out of no where tears began rolling down my cheeks. It was such a profound moment in my yoga practice, something that has never happened to me before. There I was, drenched in sweat, and I began to silently sob, on my mat, in my own little world, not because I was in physical pain (though this seriously was one of the most physically challenging classes I have ever attended), but because all of the songs that were played that day hold a special place in my heart, and I felt so connected to the memory of my father, not the memories of him struggling with cancer, but the good memories during those 90 minutes. I deal daily with the fear of forgetting my father, but that day the memories were so vivid, colorful and clear, I swear it was if I lived those moments only yesterday.
I walked away from the mat feeling all sorts of love in my heart: Love for a non-running activity and a new place where I have been welcomed, the love that my parents shared which in turn gave me life, the love of my father, who left this Earth too soon, but is with me, every day, through spirit, memories, music, and all the lessons he taught me, the love of my mother, who thankfully is still with me in the flesh, and has grown to be my best friend, and last but not least, the love for myself.
I have grown up so much over the last few years, and though I have never dealt with major confidence issues, or any self-hate, I truly believe we could all afford to love ourselves a little more. By challenging myself with an activity that helps me clear my heart and mind, and also improves my physical fitness, I have been able to slow down and reflect on all the blessings in my life, even those ones in disguise, and I have come out with more self-love than I thought possible, and that my friends is a fabulous thing.