As flat palms and extended fingers are pressed into an assortment of mats and as shins are carefully balanced on triceps, I remain crumpled at angles—tiny grid marks forming on my forehead as the smell of 5-year-old rubber wafts up my nose, trying to steal my attention. I am learning, ever so slowly, to listen to the quiet whisperings of my body, to practice gentleness in its movements, to accept where I am in this precise moment, and to let it be.
In yoga classes, we often talk about grace. Each stretch should be slow and intentional and trusting. When positioned in front a room full of eager, cross-legged, close-eyed students, I would often speak of how birds fly into a tangle of branches without hesitation. Their senses, past experience, and instinct guide them home, every single time. Are not we also equipped with the same awareness, memory, and internal compass? Are we not, too, able—no, allowed—to trust ourselves? The themes of my classes were always those truths which I, myself, needed to hear.
A few short years ago, I was the student whom others watched out of the corner of their eye, observing the subtleties of my movements and the perfection in my form. Lost in my own practice, I often still felt their eyes on my back, so I extended further and fell in deeper. After class, a secret admirer would inevitably approach and compliment my form, flexibility, or focus; my response was always the same: “It’s taken me ten years of committed practice.”
As humans, we often seek out secrets and shortcuts. How can I shave off time, effort, and cost? How can this be made easier?
As human, we place impossible expectations on ourselves. How can I land the most attractive partner, afford all the worldly possessions that spell success, and master crow pose on the first attempt?
And, as human, we often lose patience and give up just as we’re approaching a breakthrough. Why can’t I do this? How did I turn out to be such a failure? How can I play it safe moving forward to avoid this kind of embarrassment again?
My old yoga studio shut down, so the dread-locked hippies at my side have been replaced by women with overly-plump lips and $80 crop tops reading “Spiritual Gangster.” The smooth seamlessness of my practice has been jostled by the energy in the room, a disconcerting sense of urgency. Or, perhaps, my own feelings are being ricocheted off the pale lavender walls—my own fears.
After over a year of stellar nutrition, gentle exercise, regular mediation, and visualizing myself hiking again, why am I not getting better? Why am I calmly resting in child’s pose while everyone else is taking a calculate risk that may or may not result in their toppling face-first onto the ground?
I have the sense that I’m on the cusp of uncovering some greater truth or gem of divine wisdom. I keep imagining those birds gliding smoothly through the air, and then pivoting in response to obstacles. They trust their tiny bodies, keen minds, and overwhelming instinct. They don’t waste time worrying about the challenges ahead, but instead set their mind on a goal and then set out.
A few days ago, we discovered black mold in the kitchen and bathroom—the places where I am most prone to comically loud sneezing. A few days ago, I learned via a hair analysis test that I am copper-toxic—a diagnosis that aligns with every single symptom I’ve experienced over the last six years, from the valley fever to the tumors to the infertility. I restarted the low-dose naltrexone and my overactive immune system has expressed immense gratitude for it’s short, nightly reprieve. I imagine there is still a long ways to go, but it feels as if we’ve turned a page, as if this is the beginning of the end.
As I move forward in treatment and healing—forehead still pressed into my mat, waiting–I strive to be like those little birds unconsciously assessing their surroundings, as they prepare to fearlessly take flight and allow their their tiny, heart-shaped compasses to guide them home.