It was love at first meeting. That kind of sudden, deep, knock-your-socks off love that changes everything. I was twenty years old and walked away from that first encounter knowing this would be a lifelong thing. This would be the kind of relationship I’d write a book (or a blog post) about years later. I had found The One.
I’m talking about yoga. The great love of my life.
Yoga and I fell passionately in love from the first moment we met. Our first encounter was at a tiny, one-room studio in a strip mall in the college town where I went to school. The room was smoky from incense, and the handful of regulars comfortably chatted and joked. It was the yoga equivalent of meeting in a dive bar. After that day, I changed everything to spend more time with my new love. I changed my schedule, my wardrobe, even my friends to make room for this exciting new relationship.
Like all relationships, the honeymoon phase didn’t last forever. (Don’t let the Twilight movies fool you; it never does.) Soon yoga and I settled into a comfortable routine. The butterflies faded, but the relationship was still happy, sweet, and fulfilling. Yoga was there for me when I went to bed at night, giving me soothing restorative poses and peaceful savasana to relax me to sleep. It was there for me in the morning, giving me invigorating Sun Salutations to energize and strengthen me for the day. It was there for me during stressful times, during happy times, and during those just-getting-through-the-day times. For years, we carried on in committed bliss.
Like any relationship we eventually hit some bumps in the road. The love was still there, but the passion was gone. The poses became routine, the practice monotonous. I came to my mat more out of obligation than desire. And one day, after a particularly dull practice, when I was struggling to get through even the most basic poses, it hit me.
Yoga and I needed a break.
I was ashamed to admit it, but there it was. The Truth. I needed space from yoga, and if my practice could have talked, it probably would have admitted it needed space from me, too.
So in a bittersweet moment, I rolled up my mat and tucked it into a corner, where I knew it might stay a while. In my memory, I actually shed a tear or two, knowing that it would probably be a while before we saw each other again. But with resolve, I walked away, sure that I would come back, but unsure of when.
For the next six months, I did the mind-body equivalent of dating around. I took pilates classes. I lifted weights. I spent hours on cardio machines at the gym. I took a stab (and failed miserably) at running. I meditated more. I read about Taoism and Tantra. A little of this, a little of that. I flirted and explored. Until finally I found myself, on a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon, mat in hand, back in the vinyasa class that had long been a favorite before yoga and I hit our rough patch.
I chose my space. I set down my water bottle. I unrolled my mat, taking a moment to tenderly smooth down its curled up edges. “I missed you, baby,” I said. “Will you please take me back?”
That class was one of the stretchiest, breathiest, most joyous practices I’d ever had. It felt like slipping back into the arms of a long-lost lover. Familiar, loving, safe. I wondered why I had been away so long, but knew I could never have had that feeling if yoga and I hadn’t taken a break from each other. Not long after that day, I enrolled in a teacher training, which for me felt like the equivalent of asking yoga to marry me. On the day of my teacher training graduation, I felt like I was saying “I do” to my practice. And we’ve been happily committed ever since.
That’s not to say we don’t have hard times. Some days I still look at my mat and say, “Seriously? You again? I’m so not in the mood for what you have to offer.” But we always make up. My practice always forgives my bad attitude and less-than-open heart, and always welcomes me back, the same generous, nurturing, invigorating love it’s always been.
Lately, we’ve been having a renaissance of sorts. My body has gotten stronger and my spirit a little more adventurous, which has
opened up a whole new world of arm balances and inversions. My practice and I feel like the old married couple who have fallen back in love with each other and started taking wildly daring vacations, recapturing the spirit of their youthful, honeymoon days. It’s a beautiful time in our relationship. But I know this phase won’t last. I know there will be hard times, and there may even come a time when we need space from each other again. But I’m trying to apply the lessons of my practice and just stay in the moment, enjoying where we are. Right here, right now. Together.