My spirit takes a journey
My spirit takes a flight
Could not have risen otherwise
And I am not running
Running is not a choice from the breaking
Breaking is freeing
Broken is freedom
I am not broken
I am free
– Alike from the movie ‘Pariah’
Hellbent, Benjamin Lorr’s book about a regular dude who becomes obsessed with Bikram, both the yoga and the man and writes a journalistic account of the Bikram world. There’s a quote from the movie Pariah that begins one of the chapters.
I am now crushing on Benjamin Lorr.
So savvy to quote a brilliant and understated film about the coming of age of a Black lesbian teenager in Brooklyn.
The journey of healing so many attribute to hot yoga and the parallels with Alike’s journey to self was enough to make me giggle and tap my feet as I read my nook on the PATH train to my own hot yoga class.
I sat on my mat feeling so ready and sure. Reading Hellbent on the train had me stoked to be in the hot room!!!
My bag had been packed to perfection(bag packing for hot yoga is crucial). My water bottle was solid ice. My post class clothes were in a separate bag.
Couldn’t be more ready. The lights were still off and I looked at myself in the mirror. Suddenly my sukasana felt wobbly. No longer was I easy in my seat.
A lump rose in my throat.
What was I doing taking a class? Had I really decided to make this change and teach yoga? And write? And figure out a strategy to make all of this into a living? Serving the world with yoga?
The craziness in my head continued….
Panic. Why was I thinking about this now? How did all of those thoughts rush through my head in 20 seconds?
I took to my back to exhale. Class started- and it was a hot, brutal freaking mess. Poses seemed to go on for hours.
But I kept looking at myself in the mirror. This mirror aspect of hot yoga really irks some folks. They say it’s narcissistic. I think it depends on the person. Yoga is what you make of it, no?
Sometimes, I need to square off with my sweaty reflection.
Sometimes I need to look at myself and say, cut the shit Oneika. You. Have. Got. This. So. Suck. It. Up.
I plodded on…One of my favorite teachers adjusted my Rabbit pose. I knew I looked pretty broken throughout class. She was gentle with the adjustment. My legs are long and I am flexible in my back and neck, but I rely on my leg length to get into the pose.
That’s not how yoga works. Yoga is about using strength but finding new ways to reach the final expression of a pose…
Once that is done, you find new ways to grow.
She told me to relax my shoulders – I did. She told me to lift my hips, but my shoulders hunched up. Relaxed my shoulders but my hips dropped. She couldn’t see my face but I think she could feel my frustration and fear.
‘That’s okay, next time’, she said.
I exhaled. Next time. There is a next time.
I didn’t like my life before because I felt broken. Sometimes in class I feel like I’m breaking…because I am free.
I got home and pulled out my plan. The time has come to readjust. I want and need new things.
Change. It’s familiar and scary at the same time.
I always feel this way jumping off the diving board, that tickle of excitement in my stomach and a big bounce- afraid for a second….flying up…
But then I remember, I am an excellent swimmer.
This is yoga. And I am free.