on the mat

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on the mat

Almost 15 years ago I walked into my first yoga class and got on the mat.

I was ready, for what I didn’t know for certain, but I was ready. The previous fifteen years of my life had been, well … not exactly what I would call ideal. After a severe injury, I fractured the 4th, 5th, and 6th vertebra in my neck which resulted in two surgeries. I spent a year or so re-learning how to walk properly and gaining back most of my fine motor skills.

Then a few years after that I developed Meniere’s Disease which has caused me to lose practically all the hearing in my left ear. Oh yeah, and there’s those attacks of vertigo which last for hours.

Fun stuff.

I’m not complaining; I’m alive and that’s a wonderful thing. But between the rehab and trying to cope with staying vertical while doing my best to be a functioning part of society, I also managed to gain nearly 40 pounds.

I was a mess!

I don’t remember exactly why I decided on yoga but I do remember thinking it might help with my balance. Did I mention that I had lost about 25% of my ability to balance. I’m talking close my eyes and fall over, bouncing off door jambs every time I went through a doorway loss of balance. Of course there’s that extra poundage I was hauling around which I wouldn’t have minded getting shed of. I felt like shit, had no energy, and was going down fast.

So first class I’m thinking ‘How hard can it be?’ I mean, don’t they just bend over, maybe stick out an arm or leg or something? After the first fifteen minutes, I’m like ‘This is hard’! Here I am arms and legs trembling just to stay erect, never mind raising one foot else I would fall flat on my face. And then there’s these little skinny women not even breaking a sweat.

Well, I stuck it out and made it through class, and then I made it through another one, and another one, and another one. Then an amazing thing started to happen … no, it was still hard as hell. I started feeling better as in my attitude, my outlook. Things seemed brighter, cleaner, clearer. I realized I was starting to feel happy … for no apparent reason.

It was then that I started to discover that yoga is about more than poses and breathing and standing on one leg. Yoga is about discovering yourself. For me, it has been about getting back to the me I knew many, many years ago. Probably childhood. It was a revelation to find I had lost myself so long ago and either had not realized it had slipped away or had forgotten how I once was when I was younger. Probably both.

And yes I have benefited physically from yoga as well. My weight is down from a high of 195 to around the 160 I’ve maintained for the better part of the past year and my balance is much better. I don’t ricochet off doorways as I pass through them.

But that’s not the best part of this continuing yoga journey. The best part is that what I learn on the mat stays with me whether I’m on the mat. Or off the mat.