Part I: “Perfect” (or) Shitty Yoga

For a 6:00 yoga class it usually goes something like this:

  • 5:00pm–talk myself into going and convince myself that I will be happy I went after its over
  • 5:13pm–put on capris and tank top
  • 5:14pm–do downward facing dog and watch as capris roll half-way down my legs
  • 5:15pm–kick off capris and search closet for “yoga pants”
  • 5:15:30pm–make mental note of how no one in yoga classes actually wears yoga pants, in fact, yoga pants have more of a home at Target on a Saturday afternoon than they do in a yoga studio.
  • 5:16pm–Pull on exercise leggings and spin to examine all angles
  • 5:17pm–bend over rear to mirror to see if pants have “LuLu effect” they always do.
  • 5:18pm–pull on Gap Fit capris which always fit well but are typically worn for running and decide it doesn’t matter.
  • 5:18:30pm–decide that combination of fitted capris and tank top is too tight and looks for perfect light yet loose (but not too lose) shirt.
  • 5:19pm–tie up not-my-hair in a ponytail
  • 5:21pm–tie up not-my-hair in a bun
  • 5:23pm–change from not-my-hair option #1 to not-my-hair option #2 and pin it back off my face
  • 5:24-5:32pm: tear apart my entire room looking for “yoga headband” which has elastic and stays in place while absorbing sweat
  • 5:40: after taking 17 unsuitable-for-instagram photos I notice how late it has gotten and I grab my keys and run out the door for class.

imagesI arrive. The room is heated and no matter what the actual temperature is, it is perpetually five degrees too warm and I begin to sweat immediately. I search around the room for a familiar face. There never are any. Svelte bodies stand erect upside down balancing to “warm up”.  I lay down in corpse pose and pull awkwardly at my clothes. Pants up, top down. I wiggle back to re-center myself on my yoga mat and try to bring myself into the room and the moment.

  • 6:00pm–the instructor begins class. Asks us to remember to breathe. Sweat decorates my top lip and I wish silently for a clock anywhere in the studio. I chuckle to myself because if there were a clock it would be fogged over. It’s so fucking hot in this room.
  • 6:27pm–after the 107th downward facing dog and 1,203th chaturanga my shoulders ache and I melt into child’s pose. My sweaty forehead sinks into my mat and I breathe my GODHELPME Ujjayi breath. It has surely been an hour, I think.
  • 6:31pm–my shirt which began as loose and flowy is now soaked with sweat and sticking to my skin. I self-consciously tug at it in between spreading my branches in tree pose and hands to heart.
  • 6:43pm–as we star pose to the side and the sweat drips as though I were wringing myself out I hear it hit my mat and it echoes as though Niagara falls were in the studio. I wonder if the man behind me can hear it too.
  • 6:50pm–spine twist, my body can barely bend this way and I look around the room to see others facing the back wall breathing effortlessly.  I make a mental note to research “yoga for fat people” when I go home.
  • 7:00pm–I taste the sweet relief of fresh cool air on my skin and say goodbye as I wonder if I can text someone to meet me for a late burger and a drink.

Yoga practice, not yoga perfect.

To conclude:
I made a promise to myself after my last class that I would not repeat this song and dance. Despite my account above, I really do love the practice of yoga. But I wanted people to know how incredibly frustrating it can be to get OUT of your head and be where you are. I get hung up on what I look like. What I sound like. What others think of me and think of my practice. But I just do not want to live that tightly anymore. I am in a place where I really am ready to shed the weight and restriction of other people’s opinions (and my own self-judgment). Happy.  That’s all. It doesn’t come from the perfect outfit or the nailing the perfect pose. Happy comes when you can enjoy exactly where you are, and what you look like and know that in those moments how blessed you are to be in them.   Moving forward, that is what I’d like my practice to be about: gratitude. Every inhale grace and every exhale thanks.  Perfection, or this ideal that I have been striving for…it was stifling me. I want to keep it out of my yoga classes and out of my everywhere else too.

On my lips

Losing weight is not nor has it ever been about losing weight. After I finished that last post, I got dressed and went on a run/walk around my neighborhood. I listened to the Belle Brigades and went to explore. Down unexplored streets and finding new views; I was looking for the sting in my lungs.

It was an hour later when I was laying on my floor dripping sweat and meditating when the thought came to me, losing weight is not about losing weight. Then I decided it was time to take some financial advice from Suze Orman and get really honest.

When I moved home from Nashville back in 2008, I was at my heaviest and I weighed 324lbs. May I just pause and in this moment reflect on what it is like for me to admit that out loud and to the entire world? I was 324lbs and so incredibly fragile. I was at the edge and incidentally, the furthest I have ever been to feeling powerful. To write that, to know that people many people will read this and know the dirty ugly truth of my life…feels good. Nothing grows in darkness except mushrooms. So I was 324 and once I moved out on my own, started to eat better, feel better and live better…find my stride in life and in my profession…a profession, might I add, that saved my life I got down to 260. When I look at the photos I don’t see it. I don’t see 60lbs gone, it didn’t feel miraculous or monumental or anything even close to that. It felt like I was 260lbs and needed to be half that. I was still not in a place where I could celebrate or even recognize my victories. I was still numb to my self.

All of that came to me in my shower after the run and after the meditation. You know how to physically do this, you have done this before. You know it and there was still a disconnect and I had the thought again, LOSING WEIGHT IS NOT, NOR HAS IT EVER BEEN ABOUT LOSING WEIGHT. I remembered old episodes of Oprah and old thoughts and reflections about how if I kept making losing weight this huge monumental mountain, and if I approached it with the mindset that it was damn near impossible that I was setting myself up for failure. And yet, I didn’t have an alternative. I didn’t know how else to think about it. I could not, having lived the life I have lived with the experiences I have experienced, reframe my view on losing weight.

Until today.

When I made the parallel between what power felt like and the sensation of running, something click for me. This is not about losing weight, or getting fit, or any of those pseudonyms we use for looking attractive to the general public. This was about being intimately connected to my power. I need to feel that connection, I need to step into my power and when I saw how to do it, I had to try. I pushed myself to keep going because the longer I went the more I felt it. And the more I wanted to cry. I was walking up hill and sweat was seeping from the bend in my arm, such an uncomfortable place to sweat, and I saw a license plate that said “Just4Jes” and I started to cry. I started to cry because it was an external manifestation of my exact internal feeling…this was about finding myself, and if I see it in that way then it’s not impossible or even daunting, it’s invigorating and inviting and inspiring and freeing and overwhelming in the best way.

It clicked for me today. And in my moment of honesty with myself and with the world, I felt so beautifully connected. It means very little to reveal numbers or even thoughts because I am not those things. I am. And nothing comes after that, nothing that follows that very compete sentence can hold me captive in shame in judgement in persecution in solitude in bondage in loneliness in silence.

I feel nothing but grace and gratitude right now, for daring to chase it, to try. I am emotional and happy and at peace.

…and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. –Anaïs Nin

Grasping

The local time is 10:58pm but it feels much later. Its been a day. I hesitate to call any day I am blessed to have experienced a “bad” day, but it was one where I found myself grasping for the goodness, the gratitude, and the grace.

I had almost arrived to Denver. Our pilot had previously made mention of turbulence we may encounter as we prepared to land but I figured, I fly often enough–I will be okay. I was wrong. We just kept dropping. My body was in panic. I shouldn’t feel that floating rollercoaster feeling on a plane. I looked at the window and saw the mountains and then the plane shook violently. The little Indian woman beside me was starting to fret. We dropped again. I closed my eyes and hot tears fell. I told myself it was fine, just air pockets. Or rough air. Or jet streams. I struggled for some meteorological explanation. But all I felt was the falling.

The mountains were so close. I could see the stream carved valleys and icy caps. Down we fell closer to them. I closed my eyes again. Telling whatever power would listen that I was grateful for this morning having spoken to my mom and my sister. I told them I loved them. At least I did that. And I suppose for those who have never experienced anything like this, I might sound a bit dramatic. But I’d left panic and found peace and in hindsight that’s scarier.

We shook and dropped and shook until we landed, very roughly. I wiped the tears and the man behind me rubbed my back. I just kept saying, “that was not okay.” I cried from the time it started until I was in the shuttle headed to the hotel where there was a debacle with my room.

As I sat in the lobby, growing more and more frustrated by the minute I sang to myself. I longed to play in my hair. My hair. It has always been a sort-of soothing thing for me. I needed some comfort.

I didn’t call my mom, because I did not want to worry her. I knew she would be concerned and I was going to be okay. I was just a little shaken up. When she saw my facebook status dictating an awful mood she knew something was wrong. Lots of people did because I rarely, if ever post negative things. Just not me. She, of course, went into mom mode and wanted to fix it and make it better. I recalled that awful flight and started crying again. It struck me that no matter how old, accomplished, mature, developed we get…sometimes we’re just little helpless beings in need of love, affection, and comfort. When Mo came, she gave me a hug, helped me sort through my hotel woes and I told her, “you should be a mom.” 

After dinner, I was calm. Ready to shower and wash off this day and settle into bed. I laid on the bed unable to locate the anger I felt so strongly only hours before. Instead I found the goodness in problems easily fixed and good friends willing to help fix them. The gratitude in a peer, a friend, a mentor who can laugh and cry with you with such ease, its as if it always was. And the grace…for a life where I am so incredibly loved. Even the problems I have show just how privileged I am.

And so, before bed I say my prayers. For my mother and my sisters. May they always know I love them. For good pilots and safe landings. For loving friends with nurturing hearts. And for the good sense to even in crisis, know there’s something more than this moment. Thanks to the divine, even for my anger.

Grace

As I watched our First Lady, Michelle Obama, deliver what is arguably one of the most heartfelt, endearing, and riveting speeches in recent history I started to cry for three reasons.

1…as I attended our SOLES welcome back reception for new and returning students and I mixed and mingled, Dr. Green approached me gently reminding me that we need to meet. I felt that tug in my stomach, the one you got when you were younger and an elder started telling you about life. As true as it all may be, you’re not sure you want their wisdom just yet. I have such anxiety about opening up more.

My head spun as I held conversations with faculty, new and returning students about classes, summer break, and other such small talk. I heard our librarian Dr. Byrd’s voice…she tells me I know everybody and am involved with everything, and I need to be in politics. Again that stomach churn. I have no desire to be in politics, but the though of somehow being able to effect change at such a large (and very public) level makes me panic. I keep hearing Zachary ask “where are you?” I hate attention but I just feel like I am being prepared to handle it. I think know I will be faced with this sooner rather than later.

When I saw Michelle not only command, but engage her attention I was so inspired. This was about her, in all her many roles, being able to connect to us on the most basic human level. More than that, she did so with grace. It was not boastful, nor (and perhaps for me, most importantly) was she in any way apologetic in her strength.

2…Michelle Obama looks like me. Read: I imagine she uses some mixture of oils and lotion to fight dry, ashy skin. She likely wraps her hair at night and ties it in a satin scarf. But its not just the aesthetics…she grew up with parents who worked extremely hard to see that she succeeded. She is an ivy league graduate with a terminal degree who had/has an incredible job. What does it mean to me to be able to see a black woman be accomplished at something other than having an attitude? What does it mean to see a black woman command a room without cursing, yelling, or exposing her body? What does it mean to see a black woman openly love her black husband, and praise her black father for defining himself by the success of his children? What does it mean to see this highly accomplished black woman prioritize her family above all other professional or personal accomplishments?

Which segues into 3…Michelle and Barack are equally yolked. To use a biblical allusion…but can you think of one better? I love than she is an articulate, intelligent, compassionate, and beautiful woman who standing alone is amazing, but her ability to be all that and part of a greater unit is amazing to me. It suggests to me that its possible to be both passionate career woman and nurturing wife and mother. Hard nosed intellectual and compassionate humanitarian, and all the other dichotomies. It tells me that we are not the either ors people suggest we are (stay at home mom type or working mom type) and that some women do it beautifully. It shows me the kind of woman I hope to be.
It also shows me that the kind of man I deserve exists and is seeking a-Me. It is that assurance that I can be my whole self. My true self and still be loved, accepted, sought after and cherished. And I suppose some people will say its an act. Or its media fabrication or that its easy because of the many luxuries afforded to them. I choose to believe the opposite.

So when I cried, it was because here in front of me was a woman who I so admire, telling me through her life that my dream is not only legitimate but attainable. Because here she stood telling a story I connect with of sacrifice, fortitude, and love. I cried because of the embodiment of true grace. Eloquent in delivery, empathic in ethos, it was just everything. That, to me, is worth getting to know myself more. If somewhere in me lies the ability to awaken potential then I want to get to know that part of me.

The fourth reason, then, is because as I watched Michelle I saw my self, and it was a part of me I found so hard to believe in. A part of me that was invalidated and undervalued. A part of me desperately needing voice and affirmation, who is sure of herself and her abilities and who is not ashamed of her vulnerabilities. I was able to see that, me…and I cried at never having seen her beauty and strength before.