The words from the Yoga instructor were comforting, the exercise kind and slow. Positioned between two friends, I lay on my back with my eyes closed, repeating the words in my head as I inhaled and exhaled deeply. She continued,
“Give yourself permission to let go of the push…the control…at this very moment…it is enough.”
I felt my whole body relax.
It was my first time to experience a Yoga Wall class. When Mary, my friend of 35 years challenged me to take a risk and join her, I accepted her invitation. I thought surely I could stretch and bend with the best of them. As we drove to the studio, she began to prepare me for what was coming…
In a nutshell, I learned that a Yoga wall has straps on it that hold your body weight while you lean and stretch into the positions several feet off the floor.
Silently I sat in the front seat of the car, her words penetrating my peace. My mind began taking me down a path of straps, positions and embarrassing mishaps that verged on the assurance of impending exposure and certain death. The small twinge of anxiety began to somersault and snowball itself right into the center of my chest, my heart picking up the pace of my racing thoughts.
Swallow. Always swallow the anxiety. Because it is a sign of weakness. Better to hide it than to disappoint. Wouldn’t want to cause a problem.
We arrived at the Yoga studio and Mary supplied me with a mat, a block and a belt. I took one look at the Yoga wall and the ‘what if’s’ began…the silent war inside my head.
“What if the straps break?”
“What if I fall?”
“What if I fall and cause someone else to fall?”
“What if I can’t do it?”
The perfectionist inside me was pushing me to ‘trooper up’ and get through it.
I hesitated and thought about taking a seat on a bench at the back of the room where I knew I would be safe, calm and quiet. Ambivalence tugged at my heart…I wanted to try but was afraid to risk. Not far behind the push was the guilt reminding me that my friend had gone to the effort and cost of the class, how could I let her down?!
I took a few minutes to go to the ladies room, to breathe, to give myself wiggle room to make a decision.
Really, my challenge wasn’t really about Yoga. It wasn’t about the straps. It was about my fear of the unknown and uncertain.
It was about trust, vulnerability and choices.
Could I trust the instructor?
Could I trust myself to ask for help if I needed it?
Could I be kind to myself and stop the process without labelling myself a failure?
Could I exercise the freedom to be all of me with all my fear and trembling?
And most importantly, if I wanted to stop, could I risk being a disappointment?
Would I be enough? Would I be too much?
“All this over a Yoga Wall class?”
Yes. All this.
Courage to be me and all of what I bring requires kindness and tenderness for the recovery of my heart. The truth is that I struggle with anxiety. But rather than label it and me as ‘too much’, I have learned to embrace it as a gift and a reminder that my heart is unsettled and needs care and attention. Instead of ignoring what is really going on for me so others can be satisfied, I am paying attention to my body and my need for kindness.
I no longer need to hide. I am needy but I will add that I have discovered,
“Weak is the new strong.”
Friends are those who can accept me in all my flaws and all my beauty.
It is in that space of my need for acceptance where Jesus comes for my heart and reminds me of the sweet and tender young girl I was whose courageous cries for help in the midst of danger and death were met with silence and harm. He gently reminds me that no matter what choice I make, no matter what anyone else thinks and no matter what happens He loves me, it is Him I live for and I am safe in His arms.
I took my place at the wall.
For the next hour and with a lot of help from my instructor, I laughed, I wrestled as I tried to slip my legs through straps nearly impossible to reach– twisting, turning and stretching into positions I thought only belonged to pretzels.
There I was hanging upside down while my friend Mary snapped a few “prove it” pictures…
The class came to an end. Laying on my back, listening to the voice of the instructor, her words gently urged my heart to rest…
“You can slowly open your eyes, come back to being fully awake and remember….
Simple. Restful. Peaceful. No push. No plan. No Expectation.
Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 24 years. She is a mother of 4 children and loves their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.