The Long Exhale

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” –The Buddha

 

Crow Pose

It was August of 2015 and I was crying on the floor. Now, this isn’t really what you think. I wasn’t having a bad day, or having problems at work, or in my relationship. No, I had just taken my first yoga class, and I found myself crying on the floor during Savasana. I know what you’re thinking: Yoga is good for you, why would you be crying? You should have been smiling! I know – I get it; it was definitely a weird experience, but I can tell you now, that it’s pretty common.

I’ve always been a pretty active person: I danced, played soccer, swam, but I’d always been fairly disconnected from it, other than being aware of being sore or feeling good after an intense workout. I thought that was all there was to it, and didn’t really concern myself with digging any deeper.

When one of my best friends moved to Seattle for college, she found yoga and was always talking about it; it was something that was really transformative for her: it helped to calm her anxiety, deal with the pressure from school, and to cope with her loneliness in her long-distance relationship. While I was happy for her, I didn’t really see the appeal: it couldn’t make that much of a difference, right? I was active, happy, and I was making progress in my career, I didn’t really need to add anything else to my already packed schedule. My friend eventually decided to pursue her certification to teach and started teaching at a studio in Boulder. She’d finally convinced me to come take one of her classes, and I figured, why not? I’d at least get a good workout, and the class was free.

I remember walking into the class, looking around at what all the other students were doing, because I had no idea what to expect. People were stretching; some people were already flowing, but it looked like most people were relaxing. I thought, Okay, I can do that. So I plunked down my mat, and just laid down on it, not really understanding why people were choosing to lie around before what was supposed to be an exercise class. When the class started, my friend came in and started talking about how yoga is movement and breath, all in one. I sat and listened, even though I was secretly thinking this was a little frooffy for me, and that this whole experience was going to be a little out-there.

Dancer's Pose

After opening the class, we all began together in a posture called child’s pose. We started to activate our breath, to move our bodies in unison, and I started to feel like I was having an out-of-body experience. I felt like I was at home in my mind for the first time in a long time and I was able to just work through all of the things I was ignoring. It was an incredibly moving experience. I found myself feeling things that I hadn’t even realized I was holding in. It was overwhelming. I really thought that I was taking my own mental health seriously, because it was something that I was aware of: I was doing better than most people I knew, but the class proved to me that I was just scratching the surface of just how aware of my body and consciousness I could be.

I’ll be the first to admit that there were a lot of things that I didn’t understand about a yoga practice: I’d always thought that it was about doing handstands, and breathing really intensely, and zoning out for a little while. And on a surface level, it is all of those things. But it’s a lot of other things, too. It’s about using your breath to become aware of your body and your surroundings, and to unify them. I’d been treating myself like I was made of separate pieces that needed separate remedies: I went to the gym because I wanted to stay in shape; I ate healthy because I didn’t want to get sick; I drank water – you know, all of the things that you’re supposed to do to live a good life – but I was ignoring what my body was telling me. I wasn’t listening to my body when I felt gross after I ate dairy, or my gut when it told me I should have broken up with that boyfriend a year before I actually did, and it’s because I didn’t realize that my mind and my body were not separate entities that needed separate fixes.

I realized that day that they’re not: It’s one unit, and it needs something that works for all aspects. I know that everyone who does yoga with any kind of regularity says that it changed their life, but it really did change mine. After I finished that class, I realized that I was ignoring large parts of myself in order to be living life the way I thought I should be.  If this seems like a dramatic reaction to this moment, you’re right, it was. It encouraged me to really take a look at how I was living my life, and work on things as a whole instead of just in pieces.

Meditation

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Keira Mountain has always had a love for books and literature. She is a full-time student at the University of Colorado at Denver in pursuit of a degree in English Writing, and hopes to find a place in the publishing industry as an editor after graduation. When she isn’t in class or at work, you can find Keira on her yoga mat, teaching at CorePower in Boulder, reading or cooking.

3 thoughts on “The Long Exhale

  1. I like your honesty – your willingness to say that you weren’t all-in on the yoga thing from the beginning. “Frooffy” :-)…priceless. I like that you use photos of yourself as the article focuses on the transformation in you. Your story must be convincing and moving, because I definitely feel like I haven’t “done” yoga quite right. I’m excited to try it the way that you mention, as a blending of the body and mind.
    – The phrase, “I realized that day that it’s not” is a bit off for me. Maybe because it sounds like we’re talking about two things, the mind and body, so I expect to hear, “they’re not”?
    Thank you for sharing!

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  2. Hi Keira,
    Although I can’t say that I’ve had an as overwhelmingly emotional experience such as yours, I can say that I do share your love for yoga. It really does connect your mind with your body and after class, you feel so refreshed.
    *One thing I’d note is just to watch your comma use, there are a few misplaced commas here and there.
    Other than that, great post. I enjoyed hearing about your first yoga experience. I noticed your pictures at Red Rocks. Have you ever done the actual yoga on the rocks class? I’ve always wanted to try it, but haven’t.

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  3. -I really enjoyed the flow of the piece up until just before the end. In the last paragraph, I feel like you wanted to break to a new paragraph where it says “I know that everyone…” It would make it feel more like the closing paragraph, and help the reader wrap up thoughts. I was a little confused the first time I read it, in that I though there was something missing or it didn’t load correctly.

    -I really liked your opening paragraph. I thought it was catchy, and made me invested in that I was pretty sure you were going to be talking about yoga based on the title and picture. I think you did a great job transitioning into the rest of the piece.

    Like

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