Anne Samit has been practicing with me for several years. She is the author of Unfold Your Mat, Unfold Yourself and is published on Huffington Post and Elephant Journal. Below she talks about what it’s been like to discover and practice yoga. Connect with Anne on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.
When I found yoga, I didn’t know that I was in for any sort of change. I certainly wasn’t looking for any sort of change. In fact, if you had asked me then, I would have said that I’d had enough change to last a lifetime. I think at the time I was on autopilot without knowing it, and I was unaware that the course I was charting wasn’t really getting me anywhere.
I didn’t realize this until a few years ago when a yoga studio opened nearby. I had never been to a gym, nor had I ever dedicated myself to any kind of exercise. But I guess it could be said that I saw a sign. Literally. It was hanging in a nearby shopping center, and I stopped in for a class schedule. It took me three more months before I signed up, but I finally made it to my first class.
And that’s when things changed. I didn’t know that day would be the first day that I would start moving and never stop. I had no idea when I unrolled my mat that the practice would completely energize me, setting me on a new course from that day forward. I even started writing. Something about the movement moved me, and the more I practiced the more I had to say.
Mimi has been one of my instructors for the past several years, and I credit her with elevating and inspiring my practice. She sets up a supportive and welcoming environment and has the unique ability to simultaneously challenge and encourage her students. And so I’ve built a certain physical and mental strength from taking her classes, and I’ve watched others do the same.
Below is an excerpt from my book, Unfold Your Mat, Unfold Yourself, which is a collection of essays that documents what’s turned out to be a journey for me. It’s titled, “Adventure” and it explains how Mimi and my fellow yogis have helped to take me off of autopilot and re-chart my course for destinations yet unknown.
So come out of your cave walking on your hands and see the world hanging upside down.
~THE CAVE, MUMFORD AND SONS
The other night, I was at yoga, laying out my mat, unwinding it from its bag and doing the same from my day.
I prefer a spot against the wall, where I can try a few handstands without going overboard.
I walk along my mat and talk with those nearby, enjoying the switch from my workday to my yoga night, chatting and pacing and popping into handstands.
And I wonder where else, really, would this seem normal?
Aside from my Instagram friend who sneaks photos in her office attire, putting up pictures of handstands alongside a file cabinet or backbends atop a conference table, I’m not sure I know anywhere else I could chat while upside down without anyone wondering what’s wrong with me.
I’ve come to realize that I feel the most like myself when I’m at yoga. It’s nice here, more than nice. There is a freedom once I park my car and walk to the studio, as if I am leaving one life and showing up at another.
And this transition has been a huge adventure for someone like me, someone who doesn’t love change and who takes comfort in sameness.
It’s not that I’m not who I am outside of yoga. It’s pretty hard to be anyone else, anyway. It’s just that on my mat I feel the closest to me and to the girl I was so long ago.
On my mat, it just is what it is, a phrase I usually hate to hear. It’s the phrase I come up against when no amount of justifying or explaining can make things how I’d rather they be. It’s the phrase that speaks the truth, and that’s what I get on my mat.
It is what it is on the mat because it’s pretty bare there, and so am I. Even what I wear is bare, my shoulders, sometimes my midriff and even my feet. Once there, I put up my hair, which for me is a fairly personal thing. Off the mat and outside the house, my hair is always down and done.
The yogi seated to my right looks up at me as if we’d been in conversation and exclaims, Wouldn’t that be amazing?
What? I ask, realizing that she thinks I’ve overheard the yogi on her other side.
To have the kind of job that can take you anywhere? She answers. Where you get to go anywhere?
No! I say immediately back. I’m a homebody, I admit from my mat, coming down from a handstand against the comfort of the wall. I don’t want to go all over the place! Coming here is my big adventure!
But then I sit down to ask this young girl where her job takes her and find that she has just returned from several months in Australia, studying dolphins. And from my perch on my mat, I am indeed amazed.
My yogi friends are big adventurers. To me, it seems they are afraid of nothing. I love to hear where they’ve been and what they’ve done. They are young and brave and adventurous, and I am doing my best to learn from them.
I am on the road back from something, an adventure that had been chaotic and challenging. I had been young and brave and adventurous then, and I think that’s what helped me through at the time. It’s just that I thought the objective was to find peace and safety, kind of like the spot against the wall where I can’t fall over if I go upside down.
The classes I take are pretty powerful, and maybe that’s why I’ve met so many adventurous people, those that run and bike and ski and more, those that aren’t necessarily looking for peace or safety. And when I wonder what I’m doing here among them, I think back to when I was young and brave and adventurous, too.
Maybe I am trying to find that girl again.
One yogi friend runs to yoga, takes the class and runs home. She did this throughout her pregnancy, all the while being one of the few who could hold the backbends for the full counts. Another yogi is an avid skier who just spent a recent afternoon on a trampoline. And there’s the man who completed 20 years in the military who hopes to teach as part of Yoga for Wounded Warriors.
My son’s a yogi, and he’s jumped out of an airplane. Yet another yogi biked to the beach, more than 100 miles away, as part of a fundraising event. Still another friend hails from across the globe, having spent more than a year teaching yoga in the States only to return to her country for yet another brave beginning.
And how can I not mention the young woman who spent many years as a platform diver, studied in faraway places, and is recovering from a knee injury received while cliff diving. She is forever my example of grace and strength and determination as she maintains her practice, her work, and her indomitable spirit while healing.
The night’s practice is intense, and I am glad to reach the end when it’s time for inversions. As before, I pop into a handstand, secured by the wall behind me. After balancing a bit, I lower my legs and stand up for a breather. I face the wall, thinking how much I like this part of the practice, with the room dark, the music playing and everyone upside down.
A tap on my shoulder catches me by surprise, and someone’s hands spin me out of my reverie. It’s the instructor, turning me to face front, away from the wall.
It’s just so seamless at this point, she says. No more wall for you. Hope you don’t mind and hope you had fun there, because you’re done with that.
She stands there and, under unspoken instructions, I place my palms on the mat and lift my legs into a handstand away from the wall. Each time I wobble, I feel the instructor point my core back to where it should be, so I can be upside down but still stable.
And just like that, I am set on a course for a new adventure, joining the ranks of those around me and getting that much closer to the girl who had been there once before.