Why I Fell in Love with Yoga
It all began in a Forward Fold toward the end of my first-ever yoga class. We were sitting in Staff Pose, or dandasana. I was 25 years old, a perpetual perfectionist who constantly pushed myself beyond what I could handle, doing it all because I thought that was what God wanted me to do. I sat staring at my toes, legs straight out in front of me, arms at my sides, back semi-straight.
“Flex your feet with the toes wide,” my instructor said. “Happy feet.” I looked up—her toes were spread, almost waving with glee as she said “happy feet.” Staring at my toes, I tried to spread them, but the middle three on each foot stuck together, moving in sync. My big toes and stunted pinky toes spread way out to either side—too far. I pulled them back in. Flexed my feet.
“On an inhale, sweep your arms up to the sky. Exhale, fold over your legs, allowing your arms to come to wherever they might fall. This might be your calves, your ankles, your toes. Accept your muscles. Respect your hamstrings. Do not overstretch the backs of your legs. Accept where you are today. Respect your limitations. Breathe into the pose.”
Limitations? I didn’t have limitations. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But my hamstrings were making it clear that I did have limitations.
I pulled my hands back from my ankles a little bit, resting them on my calves. The pain in my hamstrings eased a little bit. Accept, I heard in my head. Respect your limitations. If my physical body had limitations, did my mental and spiritual bodies have limitations too?
“Breathe into the pose,” the instructor said.
Shifting my focus, I thought about my breath, feeling air fill my ribs and then slide back out.
The weirdest thing happened: my hamstrings released, my hands slid forward.
Surrendering to gravity, I felt okay. Like I was melting. Like my mind slid out of my head and into the rest of me, experiencing the acceptance to be right where I was, sitting on the floor, not touching my toes. For today, that was suddenly okay.
For a few minutes, I was so distracted by figuring out how to move my muscles that I hadn’t thought about not being perfect. I wasn’t angry. Respect where you are today, Renee. You cannot save the world. Jesus already did. It’s okay if you can’t touch your toes.
I moved through the rest of the class with this weird, relaxed feeling. At the end of class, we lay flat on the floor for a few minutes, and for the first time in years, I felt completely and utterly relaxed. Calm. Supported. Peace-filled.
When I sat up after relaxation at the end, I felt like a different person. I felt peace—the kind of peace Jesus said he would give us. The kind of peace I’d been looking for my whole life: peace in my mind, body, and soul.