Megan McCafferty: I Was a Yoga Reject


From Health magazine
When Joanna, my literary agent, suggested I drive to Philadelphia to take her favorite Saturday morning Vinyasa yoga class, I thought she was looking for a unique alternative to brunch. It seemed an amusing coincidence two hours later when my friend Rachel offered an open-ended invitation to join her for an hour of Hatha yoga in New York City. The next day, when Lisa, a member of my book club, raved to the group about the studio where she was studying Anusara yoga, I could no longer ignore the message the universe was trying to send me: You are inflexible in mind and body. You need yoga.

I asked Rachel if the universe was right. “You need to breathe,” she replied. “Slow down and empty your brain, just for an hour.” I could hardly argue with her. Ive always zoomed through life in a vain attempt to keep up with my sprinting brain. If I have to choose between doing something quickly and doing it right, I often select the speedier option.

My workout routine is heavy on cardio, though a back injury requires me to slow down long enough to stretch and strengthen my core. But these floor exercises do not provide physical and emotional transcendence. “The breath is an important part,” Lisa pointed out. “Its what makes yoga different from regular stretching.”

My inability to focus on the breath was responsible for one of my several failed forays into yoga. In a Kundalini class 10 years ago, an Earth Grandmama instructor kept going on about channeling the breaths energy to my chakras. In my unenlightened immaturity, the word “chakras” evoked the lyrics to “I Feel for You” (“Chaka Khan, let me rock you, let me rock you, Chaka Khan…”), which is not the meditative mantra my gray-braided yogi had in mind. Then there was the Ashtanga class at the local Y, where I offended a fellow classmate and made a yoga enemy by innocently placing my mat down on her spot.

But it was time to give yoga another try, so I joined a weekly class offered through my husbands employer. When I showed up with my mat, I didnt even know what kind of yoga Id be doing. All I knew was that it was free and within three miles of my house.

Perhaps my low expectations set me up for high rewards. The instructor greeted me warmly. I didnt stick out as a newbie. And I was surprised by how comfortable I felt going through the sun salutations, downward dogs, etc., even if I repeatedly needed to remind myself to breathe in and out through my abdomen, not my chest.

At the end of class I lay supine in the relaxation pose, in no hurry to open my eyes and get off my mat. It was then, for the first time in an hour, that I didnt have to tell myself to inhale and exhale deeply; I was doing it involuntarily. Whoo-hoo! This recognition, of course, made my lungs stutter, instantly severing the unconscious mind-body connection.

Oh well. Im determined to keep at it, even if the closest I ever come to enlightenment are these brief moments of bliss amid the chaos of working motherhood, when my crazed brain finally goes silent and still.