Come May, I will have been practicing yoga for seven years. Astonishing. No exercise regimen has ever held my attention for even half as long. Perhaps because yoga is so much more than exercise. Or perhaps because yoga exercises so much more than the body. Yoga challenges you mind, patience, spirit. It invites flexibility not only of the muscles but of the mind. No, yoga is no longer exercise for me; over these seven years, my yoga practice has become an inseparable part of who I am, who I’ve become and who I hope to be.

The first class I attended at Karma Yoga, did not go so well. The teacher had us do some sort of hip opener that immediately sent me into an emotional tailspin. There I was in a class full of strangers, on the verge of tears, terrified and shaking to my core, wondering what the heck was going on and why did my friend bring me there. The teacher came over, covered me with a blanket and said, “You’re OK.  I saw it when you came in. Just rest and we’ll talk later.” She saw what when I came in? And rest? How was I supposed to do that when everyone around me was rotating through an entire zoo of poses: eagle, pigeon, camel, fish? After class, quite a few women came up to me, sharing hugs and simpatico looks.  A few even shared their own stories of being overcome by a host of emotions in one pose or another. The teacher and I did talk after class; she described what she saw in my hip as a “huge metal cube.”

Over time, and a good deal of inner work, that cube began to disintegrate. As it did, my balance improved. Flexibility, too. I grew calmer, stronger. A couple of years in, someone said that my whole manner was different. My yoga practice is no longer exercise; it has become an indispensable part of my life, for which I am eternally grateful. Namaste.