"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, September 13, 2015


The tiniest sliver of moon and a few scattered stars provide the only light as I step out the door into the morning. I breath in air that holds both summer's warmth and autumn's promise. It's earlier even than if I were going to work, and being out at this hour is a surprising gift.

I'm on my way to a 6:00 AM Bikram Yoga class, the first time in over four years.

On the drive in I think about all that's happened in those years: I returned to teaching after a two year leave in which I intended to get my book published and become an income-earning writing, neither of which happened. I got a new hip, the old ruined one the reason I had to leave yoga. I taught for four more years and learned a lifetime's worth of new lessons, as much as I'd learned in all the years prior. I quit writing almost completely except for a random blog post and my daily journaling. I explored Belize, rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and toured Italy. I retired.

Finding the studio is easy. My beloved Pat whose buddy pass and gentle encouragement brought me here has given good directions. Plus I Google Mapped it, and read the directions on the website. I also read the entire website in the belief that the more I knew the easier the experience would be.

Few others are on the road this early and I arrive ten minutes earlier than I expect. That's on top of the ten minute cushion I gave myself - just in case. Only one other car is in the lot and I see a woman moving about the brightly lighted studio.  I don't want to be the first one in, so I sit in my car and wait until more cars arrive.

I walk in behind two people who are clearly regulars, and introduce myself to Mica, the teacher and owner of the studio. She is warm, friendly, welcoming. The place has a clean and vibrant energy. Pat arrives, we visit. Kay, who was our first Bikram instructor and now attends and teaches at this studio, gives me hug and we visit. And then it's time to move into the room.

The heat is a palpable force. 105 degrees. I tell myself that we had days hotter in the canyon last summer, but some inner voice responds that there is no 50 degree river to dip into here. The room is comfortably full of a variety of people. I realize I don't stand out one way or the other, and relax just a little. Mica welcomes us, tells us to stand with our feet together and bring our hands together and up to our throats. The words are familiar, and my body responds automatically.  Or at least tries to.

Over the next 90 minutes and 26 postures my mind is kept busy monitoring my body. I attempt each posture and discover that parts of me have frozen stiff in the last four years. I also discover that I feel no sense of competition with my fellow yogis - a change from my previous experience. I am here for myself. I am patient with muscles that had decided on an early retirement without telling me. I breathe gently through waves of dizziness.  I sweat, at first in annoying dribbles down my forehead into my eyes, and finally in one huge body-shaped film that covers me like a living being.

The final savasana comes as such a relief and with such a sense of accomplishment that I would dance if my body weren't a jellyfish blob on my mat. Just before Mica exits the room she offers us Namaste, which we return, a word and prayer that completes the sense of homecoming that has been building over the last couple of hours.

The lively and loud world beyond the studio door startles me and brings me out of myself. I breathe in the fresh morning air, pulling it deep through freshly cleared pathways. Something not fresh follows the morning into my lungs - acrid, thick, and familiar. The unique cleansing stench of a body purging poisons. The smell stays with me, even after a long shower, hovering like a malicious spirit.

I feel slightly ill the rest of the day, while at the same time feeling deeply relaxed. By the next morning I'm sore in places I've never been sore before: front neck muscles, upper back, triceps. But I'm also feeling a relief from other pains and tightness that have dogged me since my hip surgery. I feel alive in ways I haven't since last summer in the canyon.

That first class was on a Wednesday. I went back Friday. The second day was so much easier. Not the class itself. That will never be easier because there will always be another level to aspire to, another posture to attempt more depth with. And 105 degrees requires full attention and focus every time. But I did a little more, the time went a little faster, and the potency of the smell was diminished significantly. And I felt both vibrantly alive and deeply serene for the rest of the day. A feeling that lingers still.

I'll go again on Monday. My commitment to myself is three days a week, maybe even four. My gift to myself, this time and this immersion in body, spirit and breath. In-spiration that will provide the light and energy for the inspiration I seek to live this new life to the fullest.


DJan said...

I did Bikram yoga for seven years, and I stopped in 2000. I attended the studio here in Bellingham but found that I am ready for another phase of yoga than Bikram. The heat was tolerable after about ten minutes, I remember, but the teacher and ambience in this studio are very lacking. I'm going to try an Iyengar class today! :-)

kario said...

It has been years since I did yoga with any regularity as well and I both miss it and am intimidated at the thought of going back. But your description of the release and relief you felt afterward will bring me closer to resuming it. So glad you're giving yourself this time and activity.

Barb said...

I took Yoga for many years but haven't participated in a class for a long time. I've never taken Bikram and don't know if the heat would be good for my heart. Extreme high heat is one of my few restrictions. However, I do a series of slow Yoga stretches for about 10-15 minutes every morning in an attempt to nurture flexibility. I think the goal of physical challenge to the body and spirit is always a good one. Your writing is always luminous and insightful, Deb - keep up with that practice, too!

Linda Reeder said...

While you describe this as a wonderful experience for you, it is not for me. I could not tolerate the heat, and I do not love to sweat. I do sweat, of course, on my 3.5 mile almost daily walk, but I try to walk before the temperature reaches 70.
However, your wonderful description of yoga as a spiritual experience makes me envious.

Linda Myers said...

Art and I did Iyengar yoga for several years - always the gentlest class - until I hurt my back and chickened out. Now I'm tempted again. Thanks for the motivating post!

Terri Tiffany said...

I admire you for many things--you can get up so early and out there--and that you do yoga! We each must find what fills us and pushes us.Again I enjoy reading about your journey!

tricia said...

So happy that you are taking good care of my friend, Deb! I miss your face and our time together. Let's try to connect soon!!

yaya said...

I admire your spirit! I don't know how I'd do with the heat...probably OK..but with my new knees I'm not sure I could do the yoga! I'm glad you can do this with your hip replacement. I've been walking almost daily, working up to 4mi...I'm at 2.5 a day..not counting what I do at work! It's important to take care of ourselves. I used to do many activities when I was younger but around age 50 I slowed down and I sure wish I hadn't! Trying to make up for it now is harder, but I won't give up! I want to feel better and when I retire I hope to be physically able to do more outdoor living! Keep up the good work and enjoy the peace it gives you!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

You described your experience so beautifully, and I lived it with you (minus the aches and pains) (wait--minus those specific aches and pains). I'm not a fan of "hot yoga" but you have me really thinking about getting back to the beautiful routines that challenge and comfort.

Gammary said...

Lovely gift to yourself, even though it is hard work, but maybe that is the key. Our internal task master pushes us through life's doors into an ever changing tomorrow. Wonderful, gentle and sweet writing, my friend.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

"I also discover that I feel no sense of competition with my fellow yogis - a change from my previous experience. I am here for myself."

Here you go! So pleased to read this and see that you regaining yourself after the past four years. As you said, they were learning years as well, but now, now you get to do for you. So happy for you.

However, 6am? Do they have a night class?

Linda Hoye said...

I stopped going to yoga when we moved back to Canada. It remember it as being such a welcome respite at the end of a busy work day. A little slice of peace and calm in the midst of chaos. Your writing is so lovely and reminds me of that sense of calm my own yoga class evoked.