I had been putting it off for months.
At the beginning of the year, I resolved that in 2015, I would give yoga a try. To deal with the challenges of infertility, I had begun to do what any investigator at heart does: I researched. Running had been my main exercise of choice over the past few years, but running by itself no longer felt right, or like it was enough. Add to that the arguments I read about how running raises your cortisol levels to “fight or flight” mode, signaling to your body that you are in danger, and I knew that this year I needed to embrace a gentler workout routine.
I bought a 10-class pack in January, but I let month after month pass by without calling to activate my membership. I was nervous about going alone, the studio was a fifteen-minute walk from my house, and the class times were not always convenient for my schedule. I was a master of coming up with excuses for not going, but finally the deadline popped up in my inbox in July – use it or lose it! And since I cannot stand to waste money, late this summer, I finally tried yoga. Each class experience has been different, but three months in, I am finally getting to the point where I know the poses well enough to enjoy the flow of things.
This past weekend I took my first Restorative Yoga class. I was not sure what to expect from a class that described itself as one that focused on “passive poses in which props are used to place the body in comfortable, supported positions.” I worried that it might be too boring or I would be tempted to fall asleep.
As I settled into the small, dimly lit room smelling of incense and lavender and I watched the leaves sway with the wind outside the window, I began to breathe and relax. It felt familiar – it felt like the practice I know so well. It felt like prayer and meditation. I invited God, as I always do, to meet me in that space. I moved through the poses slowly and steadily, releasing tension and distracting thoughts with each movement. After an hour, at the end I lay there in Savasana and felt unexpected emotion well up and begin to pour down my cheeks.
I realized why it took me so long to finally get here.
At many points over the past twenty two months, I have not just been mad at God for my unmet expectations for the timeline of motherhood, but I have also been mad at my body itself. I avoided my commitment to do yoga for seven months because I was unsure how to actually be intentionally present with my untrustworthy body, this thing that had failed me. Connecting with this broken vessel that had refused to do what it should biologically every month for months on end seemed impossible.
In June, at our first appointment with an infertility specialist, they did an ultrasound and found a large cyst (6.9cm and 8.5 cm) on each of my ovaries. They were endometriomas, my doctor said. I had endometriosis and would need surgery as soon as possible to repair the damage. My body had been storing blood in places it should not have, and growing scar tissue with every monthly cycle.
When I had surgery in August to remove the damage from endo, the doctor said it was more advanced than they had anticipated. It had been growing for years undetected, save for the excruciating pain I experienced at the end of every month. That pain was my body signaling to me that something was significantly wrong, but I spent half my life in pain, so I no longer paid attention. I took as many IB Profin as I needed, trying to move forward, telling my body to get it together and cooperate.
When I found out it was housing and nursing a secret disease, my first reaction was relief to finally have an answer, and my second reaction was fury that I did not know. The reality is I refused to listen. Year after year, my body was telling me to stop and notice, and I told it to shut up and soldier on.
I have not often been gentle with this body of mine, and instead preferred to discipline it into submission when it gets out of line. But there is a balance, isn’t there? I do not want to be at war with my body any more. There is room for healthy discipline, and there is room for relaxation. There is room for truth and grace.
Now, this fall, it is time to finally give my body some grace and allow it to heal – to acknowledge it for all the other things it does well, even if it will not yet carry life. To learn to say thank you for allowing me to move and breathe and laugh and cry and house the life that lives inside of it. I am finally learning to pay attention, and in doing so, it is restoring my soul.
When do you feel the most present and connected in your own skin? Do you have a favorite sport to play or exercise routine? What is it, and why?