Monday, January 6, 2014

Yoga is My Thing

Early 2013 at forty-something years old, while soaking in the tub, I began to practice my three-part, ujjayi breathing.  And then I had an epiphany as if God himself had spoken to me.  I began to sob uncontrollably.  I had finally figured it out!  YOGA IS MY THING!  

Are we born with a predisposed blueprint; fated with traits and talents?  Do the choices we make and the experiences we have throughout our lifetime determine the outcome of where our life leads us and to whether or not we reach our full potential?  And does everything happen for a reason?

I used to feel cheated.  I believed God handed out talents so obvious to those around me…Joseph, with no ability to read music, could pick up any instrument and teach himself to play; Jennifer, cheerleading captain and homecoming queen, with her perfectly feathered hair (yep, it was the eighties!) had her choice of anyone to date.

I wasn’t a gymnast, a runner, swimmer, or a dancer.  I couldn’t carry a tune and I wasn’t a beauty queen.  Trust me…I tried them all.  Fail. Fail. Fail.  Oh sure…I was good at a lot of things, but nothing came naturally.  I was a good student, but I had to study A LOT.  And while I may have set the curve for some classes because I could memorize anything; other subjects like math, that required a true understanding of the subject matter, revealed my limitations. 

When I became pregnant with my first child, my focus changed.  Believing at thirty years old my window of opportunity for discovering my own talent had closed, I became determined fetus numero uno would not suffer my same fate.  And I also thought, perhaps, being a mom was my calling and if so, I was going to be the best damn mom on the planet.  And so it went—art classes, tumbling, soccer, swimming, basketball, baseball, but nothing stuck.  He was no Picasso or Beckham.  So I gave up.   Oh…and along the way, I figured out my natural talent was not parenting.

Four years after the first fetus arrived, a second was born and when the boys were just 6 and 2 years old, we moved to Shanghai, China.  And while it probably goes without saying, living in Shanghai, China with its 23.9 million people was a bit different than living in small, generic, Midwest town, USA.   Suddenly, I had opportunities available to me that had never previously crossed my path.  One of those opportunities was yoga.  

Because of my natural flexibility, yoga was something I thought I might be adept at doing.  (I now know that flexibility is not a pre-requisite to being able to enjoy the benefits of yoga, but I didn’t know it then.)  Even though the classes were taught in Mandarin, and I didn’t understand a single direction or cue, I watched and followed along.  At the time, I had no idea that there was anything more to yoga than stretching, bending, balancing, or lunging, but I was hooked.  I sought out books to learn poses and then I sought out an English-speaking teacher. 

In the beginning, the other yogis commented and complimented me on my abilities.  I felt embarrassed by the attention.  I downplayed their compliments.  “I’m not actually good at yoga,” I’d respond, “I’m just naturally flexible.”

For the first couple of years, my yoga practice was superficial and sporadic and then we repatriated and it became non-existent.  Feeling like the best part of my life was behind me, I suffered from reverse culture shock.  Depression and anxiety took hold and I gained weight.

So with the New Year approaching and resolutions to be made, I joined Weight Watchers and the YMCA, where I attended a yoga class for the first time in almost 18 months and it felt good. No, it felt great! And even though I had gained nearly 45 pounds, my flexibility remained intact.

I started attending yoga classes 3-4 times/week and started noticing a change in my disposition.  I felt happy.  I felt grounded.  I felt balanced.  Which brings me back to that fateful day in the bath tub where I was practicing my breathing, meditating.  For all those times, I felt cheated; thought God denied me, I was wrong.  My talent existed all along.  I just didn’t recognize it.

I am now on a mission to discover my authentic self.  The road to self-acceptance has been long and arduous and took me to the other side of the world and back.  I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had because they brought me here…to the realization that YOGA IS MY THING!


  1. You are not alone. Many of us go into our 40's and 50's without realizing our talents and discovering our "authentic selves" - your story is inspiring and encouraging for everyone who is looking for their THING!

  2. Thank you Sandra. I do hope I can inspire others...if not to find their own "thing," at the very least to go to a yoga class! Learning to breathe in the face of adversity has been a great gift and I think the secret to overall emotional well-being.