Missing Class, Learning to Om

I missed yoga class. Day 10 of the 21-Day Challenge.

What a day to miss, I thought. A hellish day of cross-examination had left me feeling attacked: tired, headachey, undernourished and stressed. The earth felt shaky under my feet .I needed to fold myself into my body, turn my mind off. I craved the structured escape of an hour in the studio.  My plan was to melt into the last class of the day at 7:30 with the day’s waning light. Given my workday, it was the only time that I would be able to make.

But at 5:30, it became clear that there would be no yoga. My daughter, allergic, rashy and miserable needed to be taken to the clinic. For a hare’s-breath of a moment, I toyed with the idea that I could do it all, go to yoga and then take her to the clinic, but that was a fleeting fantasy. She needed attention. Immediately. And she comes first. It is not even a question.

So we drive to the clinic and take two seats in the crowded lobby. We wait, quiet in each other’s company. When it is our turn, the doctor listens patiently then hands us a sheet of advice and a prescription. We drive straight to the pharmacy, then scoot to the coffee shop next door for a cup of tea while we wait for it to be filled. The pharmacist smiles gently as she hands over the prescription package and suggests an oatmeal bath for additional relief. And when it is all over, and my daughter is feeling better, I take her to her boyfriend’s house because now its his company she needs.

This is my job.

And then I drive home, to the remainder of an evening, suddenly free. I realize there is an opportunity here, possibility, a space opened up.

I had taken up yoga a scant four weeks ago. When the 21-Day Challenge began, I signed on with enthusiasm, game to take in as much as I could. So here I was with a crash course in yoga under my belt, a free hour and a quiet house. How much had I learned? I headed to my bedroom, its thickly carpeted floor an adequate space to find out. I wriggled out of my dress pants and white cotton shirt and pulled on yoga pants and a tanktop, yanking my hair into a pony-tail.  I found a pillow to sit on for the opening sitting position (the name of which I had forgotten, but the physical aspects of which I had not). I crossed my legs, settled into my sit bones (always sounds like ‘sitz’ to me, like the sitz bath I had to soak my bottom end in after a nasty episiotomy ). I rested my hands palms-up on my thighs and closed my eyes.

I chanted om and was astonished at the sound of my own voice. I’d never heard it before, lost as it is in the ocean of other voices in class, melded together into one. But I heard it now, shaky, hesitant, wavering, a not-so silent ‘am I doing this right’ underscoring the sound. I say it again. And again. I don’t want to stop at three oms, as we do in class, and so I keep chanting, for who knows how long. I relax into it, experimenting with the volume, louder, softer, fuller, more restrained. I play with the length of the oh, the drawn out mmmm thinking of how it reminds me of the slowly receding chime of a gong. I settle into the vibration, the resonating in my body. Erratic yes, but full of possibility.

I had no idea.

I realize, too, that I really am more comfortable with a pillow under my hips. In class, I am so busy going over the checklist for body position and breathing, focussed in on the cues, that I don’t hear any feedback my body may be sending me.  Who knew?  And then I release to my feet and test what I remember. The flow of forward fold, halfway up and down again, plank, cobra, downward dog. Do it again. Sun salutations.  Tree. Eagle. Prayer pose. Warrior 1, 2 and 3. Triangle. Other postures the names of which I do not know, but which my body has already burned into muscle memory, as imperfectly as they may be. Savasana with the bolster. And when I’m done, I feel relaxed and happy, the tension of the day having melted away. I realize I have learned, not just postures, not just to be aware of my breathing, but to go with the flow of it, and to trust that there may be unexpected treasure there, off the path.

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