On the mat...

Child's pose. Downward dog. High plank. Low plank. Upward facing dog. Crow. Mountain. Warrior. Crescent. Chair. Prayer twist. Sleeping pigeon. Bridge. Triangle. Eagle. Dancer.

Most anyone who has taken a vinyasa yoga class will recognize these words. Names of various poses. I went back to yoga last night for the first time in a couple of months. November and December, with their illnesses and busyness and paper-writing, kept me away from the studio. In all honesty, I kept myself away from the studio. I struggle with being a perfectionist when I'm on the mat. They say that yoga is about you. It's about listening to your body. I've never really known how to listen to my body, and so I took a break. I was becoming obsessed with impressing my teachers. I wanted affirmation. I needed something else.

They say when you're on the mat, you zone out. You focus on your breathing, and everything else around you melts away. Your stress, emotions, and thoughts drip onto your mat most often in the form of sweat. In my case it's usually sweat coupled with tears. I cry a lot during practice, mostly because my time doing yoga has been my first experience with feeling body positive. I've never been an athlete. Sports of any sort usually bore me. Since I was young, I've felt a strong disconnect between my body and the rest of me, even during sex.

Yet since I started yoga, since I found my home on the mat so to speak, this has changed. In my particular studio, I sit in the far back corner closest to the door and right by the mirror (presuming I am there on time to get that spot). I lay my mat out, get settled, and usually lay down. And the first thing I do next is to look right at myself in the mirror. Some might say this is a deterrent, unhealthy. For me it's the opposite. I look at myself—pale, freckled skin, mostly bald head, barrel chested frame, hairy legs—and I breathe. I remind myself that I'm there for me.

My time on the mat is selfish.

Spiritual disciplines of nearly any sort have been a challenge for some time now, but when I'm in child's pose, face down, breathing, that's when I feel God's presence. I don't have to say anything. I don't have to think. I simply have to be and breathe, and that's enough. For 60 minutes, that's enough. For 60 minutes, I get to feel like a whole person. My mind, body, and spirit are connected. Everything is working together.

Yesterday, while at internship, Kevin and I talked about why I'm not going to church right now. I struggle to differentiate between church and the One whom church is supposed to represent. I'm bitter, cynical, and jaded. I'm hurt. And I don't want to take all this back with me, at least not the amount I'm carrying right now. I don't actively pray. I don't read scripture. I don't know how to do any of it right now. So Kevin talked to me about centering prayer, about simply just being with God, making time and space to just sit. And then I go to the studio last night, spend an hour connecting my breath, my mind, my body, and my spirit, and then I realize something. Yoga has been my centering prayer. Yoga has been my time with God—time to just be. Yoga has been teaching me that I'm beautiful and worth taking care of. Yoga reminds me that my relationship with God can be simplified, when necessary, to just being. No prerequisites, no requirements. Just being.