"Hey, girl," my friend Kristi said to me as we were leaving a six AM cycle class, "are you free this afternoon?"
"Sure," I replied, figuring she was going to suggest grabbing a coffee as we were known to do from time to time.
"Oh good," she said, happily clapping her hands, " meet me back here at Noon for a yoga session, I need to practice."
"Oh my God, you cannot be serious," I moaned, rolling my eyes, "you know I do not DO yoga."
I was aware Kristi, who in addition to teaching cycle, was was training to be a yoga instructor but surprised she was asking me, a cardio junkie who found yoga to be less enjoyable than watching golf on TV, to help her out. I hated "slow," so the fact she reached out, gave me the sense it must be important to her.
Through months of post cycle chats, Kristi and I had discovered we shared a lot in common and quickly formed a strong connection. I felt I could talk to her about anything, well, almost anything. I didn't want to let her down. So five hours later, I found myself back at the rec center, my ass on the old blue yoga mat I had dug out of the hall closet, and ready to get it over with.
“We will start with a moment of silence to connect to the breath," Kristi said, closing her eyes and taking in a deep breath . The music playing softly in the background was a serene instrumental I'd expect to hear at a spa while getting a massage, but I was far from relaxed. I shifted restlessly on my mat laid across the polished hardwood floor, my breathing shallow and quick.
"Deep breaths in and out," Kristi said through her breath. She looked serene. Peaceful. I however, couldn't calm my antsy body. I wanted to bolt out of the room to the nearest treadmill.
Kristi was patient and supportive as she led me through the basic yoga poses. I felt big and uncoordinated next to her graceful, flowing movements. My lack of post-workout stretching over the years made my body performing yoga about as easy as turning a two by four into a pretzel. My hands hovered near my knees as I bent into a forward fold, attempting a warrior two pose made me look like I was reaching for the last container of yogurt shoved in the back of the grocery refrigerator. And in down-dog I looked like a plank with a butt.
"Deep breath in and let it out," Kristi's voice broke through the silent cursing in my head, bringing my attention to the fact I was once again, holding my breath through the movements, frustrated with my inability to do each pose perfectly (or at all).
I was shocked by how hard it all was. More difficult than the high-intensity interval training on which I'd come to rely. The chaturanga pose, where I had to hold my body parallel to the floor, left my arms shaking, and core screaming. And holding chair pose had my legs burning like one of my old hill runs used to do. But it was more than just a physical challenge.
“Remember to breathe," Kristi's quiet voice once again reminded me as we held the poses.
As our hour in that room continued, I did begin to relax, my breathing becoming more purposeful, finally allowing myself to become lost in the movement. Focusing my mind on moving my body in unfamiliar ways. Determined to find each pose and hold it, even when it was difficult. Practicing in that room what I struggled with in life; When reaching a place of discomfort, resisting the urge to avoid it, and instead, learning to breathe through it.