I started practicing yoga to enhance my physical fitness. I took a few classes that didn't work for me, but something pushed me to keep trying. Perhaps it was my girlfriends. So many of them had embraced the practice I figured maybe I would too. I ultimately found my way into a strong vinyasa class. It was physically very challenging, which I loved. I was so busy trying to follow cues and move my body with my breath that I didn't worry about anything else. And there was a woman, in her 60s perhaps, who went up into forearm stand with what seemed like no effort. I was so inspired, by her, by the teacher, the sense of community in the room - I got a membership at that studio and never looked back.
I thought of yoga as a physical practice only for a long while, with my type A personality pushing me to work towards more challenging poses. I'd go to class with girlfriends, and without, and began to look forward to it. It was never the same, and that kept my interest. At some point I realized that the yoga classes were helping me manage my increasingly stressful life.
Around this time my mother, who had been battling a long time illness, got really sick. She lived far away but was my best friend, I spoke to her multiple times a day even from my busy job as a corporate attorney. My mom knew me better than anyone. I spoke to her about the yoga and she thought it was a great idea. Sometimes I'd get upset and she'd say "Lauren, just go. Go to yoga. Its really working for you." I'd go and feel better. And maybe I even thought about that 60 year old woman who flew up into her forearm stand and epitomized health. Sometimes it was just a safe way to escape my life, even if just for an hour on my mat. Sometimes I needed the support I felt in the room from the other yogis, even if I didn't know any of them. Sometimes I'd be on my mat and I would cry, allowing myself to release.
I went home to see my family in Cincinnati. I showed my mom my crow pose and my headstand. I was very proud so she was too. But she knew it was more than that. My mom's illness progressed and it was awful. I kept practicing, it was a godsend. I believe now that it saved me from a serious downward spiral into depression. It was so much more than the fitness class I originally sought out. And then some.
My mom passed away - its been almost ten years. I miss her every day. I left that corporate job and became a yoga teacher. I wanted to share with others what has meant so much to me in my life - maybe mother the students a bit into showing them how much we really can find on the mats - about our bodies, about ourselves, about each other, about love and about life. My mom never knew I was a yoga teacher, but I think she'd be proud.
We all come to our mats for different reasons, and my take has always been that no matter what the reason, if you're on your mat and connecting to your breath that, in an of itself, is a beautiful thing, no matter what the original impulse. Because sooner or later, if you keep coming, you'll find something more. Maybe for yourselves. And maybe, just a little bit, for our mothers.