I’m trying to remember why I was afraid to be myself and let the covers fall away. ~ Naked, Avril Lavigne
I climb three flights of stairs to get to my yoga class.
And when I reach the top I am greeted by dozens of shoes. It’s warm outside and the landing is a maze of flip flops and sandals.
I stop and stare at the shoes. For some reason I am so happy to see them, as if I’ve been greeted by the people they fit! I don’t know why I feel this way. They belong to those in the class before mine, and I don’t even know whose they are! But here are their shoes, their spirits still in them, standing to greet me.
I step into the studio and find the owner behind the front desk.
It makes me feel so good to see all those shoes, I say to him as I check in.
He’s a friendly guy, so I can’t tell by his usual kindly welcome whether he thinks my observation is silly. He’d lost his voice in the past few days, and we talk about that as I sign in and take off my own shoes.
When I first started yoga, I was struck by how everyone walked around in bare feet.
To me, it seemed so intimate, because I’m never anywhere with my feet bare. Inside the studio with no shoes, I felt undressed.
I guess it’d be true to say that I really felt quite undressed when I first started practicing. I’d never spent much time in the sun, and it had been forever since I’d been to the pool or the beach. I didn’t even own a bathing suit! I’m fair-skinned and freckly, and I sport what my children affectionately call my freckle patch. It’s high up on my right side, under my arm. It’s where one day all my freckles decided to meet and never part.
In fact, early on when I told my children about my yoga practice and my newfound yoga friends, they responded by teasing me.
Really, Mom? They like you? Have they seen your freckle patch?
I started practicing in the fall, and it wasn’t until the spring when it was warmer that I bought some shorter cropped pants. I was used to being in my bare feet by then, but I felt bared again with even just my calves on display. And it was a good two years before I practiced in a cropped top. I started going to hot yoga and found that I couldn’t tolerate the heat and the sweat while wearing anything over my stomach.
So the more I’ve practiced, the barer I’ve become. And I’ve bared myself in more ways than one.
Practicing yoga has been such a huge turning point for me. I look back over the years, and there’s a new divide. There’s the Before Yoga and there’s the After Yoga. The covered and the uncovered.
In the After Yoga I started to write. I met an editor who asked me to blog on yoga, and I put to use my journalism degree earned in the Before Yoga. I practiced and posted and practiced and posted. I wrote about Warrior I’s and Crows, about Headstands and Handstands. And little by little I uncovered myself. Parts of me were sprinkled throughout my essays like the freckles on my skin.
And now my writings are a blend of my practice and me. Each essay is one big freckle patch that can no longer stay hidden.
I am barer in my writing than I am on the mat. I’ve let parts of me show for the first time, and not just to others but to myself, too. There’s been someone in me whom I’ve been waiting to meet, and I think she is finally here.
She is not afraid. She lets herself be known. She is barefoot in a cropped top and shares about herself. And it’s okay because she is only who she is, and that’s all she needs to be.
Yesterday at work I posted on the office calendar that I had to leave by five o’clock that evening. I wanted to make it to the six o’clock class at the hot yoga studio downtown, and I knew I’d need the drive time.
Once I arrived I took off my shoes. I changed out of my work clothes and into my cropped top and short pants, and then I set up my mat. Gratefully, I flowed for an hour and a half, showering in the heat and humidity of the practice room.
We worked a lot on the positions of our feet with instructions to root down to rise up. In every pose we were told to press into our feet in order to ground ourselves while reaching up or bending back or folding forward. There was an assistant in the room making adjustments, and she put her bare foot on mine for an even stronger stance.
At the end I sat there with the others, soaked and rooted, and listened to the instructor’s send-off. She talked about our feet and pointed to hers.
You have to ground down in your feet to get out of your head, she said. If you are too much in your head, you don’t know where you stand.
And right away I thought back to those shoes on the landing from the other day, and I realized why they had made me so happy. All those people who belonged to them were doing the same as me.
We were all just looking for a place to stand. We were there to find our feet.