“Come into stillness.”
That’s what she said as we lay with our backs to the mats, staring at a paneled ceiling if you were me and at the backs of eyelids if you were everyone else. I haven’t yet mastered the art of closing my eyes, of coming to a still place — dark and quiet and without quivering. I quiver all the time. That’s why I recently bought a yoga mat for $8.97 at Walmart and installed an instructional yoga app that would hopefully log me in to peaceful fulfillment.
It didn’t work, though. I would lie on my back in my room, staring at the newly painted crisp walls and trying to breathe. Breathe. B r e a t h e.
Breathebreathebreathe. That is more like what I was actually doing. Panting, pacing, racing. Just like every other moment and every other day.
Then the scream happened. I felt it rise up, shaking my rib cage from the inside. Rocking my organs with too much breathing. Pumping my blood with too much red. I had to get away.
So I ran away, to a place that came to me because it promised stillness. Or at least the potential of stillness, a state remaining elusive. I found a taste of settlement there, though not everything I was looking for. It was a little nudge, a small push. Time to change. If the days are filled with too much red and too much panting, the only way to shatter the bleeding color and heavy breath is with change.
My movement was a small one, but glass-shattering for a person who has forgotten what it means to care for oneself. I signed up for a yoga class. More to the point, I actually went. I didn’t schedule it, ponder it, map it out, and then fail to do it like I fail to do so many things.
There was no reason for this yoga class beyond this: I wanted to go.
The room was dimly lit, carpeted, non-air-conditioned. There was a large painting on the front wall of a flower spiraling upwards alongside Chinese characters. No mirrors. No staring at yourself. Just being with yourself. “This is for you,” the instructor said.
Pigeon pose is for me.
Shavasana is for me.
Warrior, however feeble, is mine, too.
For every pose that I couldn’t bend into and left me unsteady, the instructor said, “If you’re not ready for it, don’t do it.”
I can’t remember a time in the last year that I have done something I felt ready for. Everything has been a situation of, “It’s happening right now. Ready or not. Sink or swim.”
I have been swimming, but maybe that is also why I’m screaming.
During shavasana, she read a poem and mentioned procrastination. “If you have been putting off doing something, now is the time. The time is right now. Whatever it is, think about what is stopping you. What are you afraid of?”
I thought about it, eyes open because I can’t be with only myself yet.
What have I been putting off?
Time for myself.
What am I afraid of?
And there it was. Being with myself. Getting to know myself and meeting someone I don’t understand, didn’t expect, won’t like. I’m afraid of me. That’s why I could never do yoga alone. That’s why I felt the need to go to a class. There are more people, and none of them are Alex.
I am glad I listened to the push that told me to change something. And although I didn’t come into stillness at yoga class this time, that’s okay. I’m not ready for it. Actually, during shavasana and relaxation I fidgeted and could hear every adjustment of my body disturb everyone around. I have never been able to control the quivering. But that scream, the one that lives in ribs? It wasn’t cracking bones for one hour. That’s progress.
At the end of class, the instructor asked, “So, Alex, did you like it?”
“Yes, I did,” I told her. “Thank you. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a class.”
“Well, it’s about time, then,” she said. “That procrastination thing was for you.”