Tales of a Brown Yogi

It’s been a little over three years since I discovered yoga and despite my initial resistance, I can’t say enough how much yoga has changed my life. Coming from an Evangelical Christian background, I admit I had always given yoga the side eye. I mean seriously, all that oming and what the hell were they really saying in Sanskrit? That said a desire to manage my anxiety in a way that truly felt good and worked gave me the desire to at least try it. My first classes were the non-physical ones, yoga nidra which eventually lead me to trying the physical classes. I can honestly say now that for the first year, I probably only put about 50% of myself into the classes, as I can admit now I was still scared…not even sure what I was scared of but I was scared. Yet over time even only giving half of myself to the process, I started to see noticeable changes in how I handled life, so much so that eventually I decided maybe there really was something to this yoga stuff.

I admit being a Black woman who takes yoga in a pretty homogenous place can be interesting at times. For the longest time I had this sense that people were probably wondering why are you here? Hell, even I wondered but continued to chug on and for that I am grateful. Of course as I surrendered myself to more than just the physical poses but to the mental piece, I realized no one really cared what color I was and if they did, just screw em!

However I admit there are times when I do think clearly yoga was not designed for those of us who tend to not be rail thin and lithe. Can I just admit that certain poses are ummm interesting for those of us who are blessed in the ass and hip departments. Don’t even get me started on so-called yoga clothing; I have yet to find a yoga outfit that won’t ride up when I am bent over. I keep joking someone needs to come up with yoga gear for well-endowed ladies, in the meantime layering with a long tank top and a t-shirt seems to keep me from giving a peep show in class.

Last week I had a breakthrough when I decided to take an evening class at the studio I go to, morning classes tend to have more casual practitioners, but as I joked with my teacher the evening classes have the vibe of “I am a serious yogi”. For a moment I was intimidated as I was the heftiest gal in the class and suddenly self-conscious, never mind that for the past year my teacher has been telling me I was capable of taking the advanced classes, it was still a mental block.

The thing with yoga which I love is that while yes, the focus for many is just on the poses and how good the physical piece feels, when you give yourself over to your breath, it takes on a dimension that is so much higher. Ultimately it’s that piece which keeps me coming back, so no matter how awkward I may initially feel, I know that’s my mind trying to take me to a place I have no business going and instead focus on my breath.

Yeah, yoga is sort of trendy and hip, but at the same time, it can be whatever you want it to be, and since I am not a hip or trendy gal, I take the gifts that have been passed down and use them to make my time on this rock a little less anxious.


I will not worry

A few weeks ago, I took my first yoga class. For years I have been fascinated by the idea of yoga, yet old habits die hard and as a recovering Evangelical Christian, I have been a bit fearful of yoga….looking back my fears were based on ignorance. Fear that my mind would be taken over by impure read um Christian ideology. Truth is my faith is strong and those were silly childish fears but I digress.

No, as someone who gets stressed to the point of anxiety attacks, I realized that with everything going on in my life, that I need an outlet for dealing with stress in a positive manner. A manner that does not result in a need for trips to the ER and a dose of Ativan to calm me down.

So I took that first class, I walked in skeptical but left feeling refreshed. The class I am taking is Ashtanga yoga which is a tad physical but still forces me to focus and not worry. However after the first few classes, I was still too wound up and decided to sign up for a Yoga Nidra class, which has no focus on the physical and is focused strictly on the mental practice of yoga.

Um….why haven’t I done this sooner? Seriously, it was an hour that was so needed. The class is a guided meditation and while it sounds hokey as hell, as of right now it works. As the hour progressed, I focused on my goal which is to not worry. I worry way too much, I wake up at 3 am to worry, go to sleep worrying. Truth is when I am engaged in intimate time with the Spousal Unit, I have a hard time turning my brain off. As you can see, I think way too much. Despite being strong in my faith, my human inclination is not to let go and let God but to pray and worry which really is a bad idea.

During my session as the layers were peeled off mentally, I entered a state where I found myself repeating that I would not worry but my mind started reminding me of my favorite bible passages that speak to not worrying. It was a truly cathartic and relaxing experience. In the midst of what some of my fellow Evangelicals would call an un-Godly experience, I felt God’s presence deeper than I have in a very long time.

Sometimes we all need to let go of the mental baggage we carry and open ourselves up to new experiences, as we might surprise ourselves with the new insight that we glean. As for me, this has been a peaceful week. I still have money woes and other trials going on in my life, but instead of worrying, I instead am choosing to trust that things will work out, that God is in charge and knows what I need.

So if you are a worry wart, I highly recommend taking yoga and specifically yoga nidra if its available to you.