Putting her hands on her knees, Jessica leans towards me and says, “So, you’ve been doing headstands since, what, March?”
Thinking about it for a second, I say that sounded about right.
She nods, the hint of a gleam in her eye. “Okay, for about eight months now. I think–“
I cut her off, violently shake of my head. Panic sets in, knowing exactly what she has in mind. “No,” I repeat, near tears just thinking about it. “I can’t. Seriously. I can’t do it.”
She crouches down a bit lower, a bit closer. “I’m not going to make you, but I want you to at least try. Will you do that for me?”
Lemme back up for a second. The latest issue of Yoga Journal has an article about setting intentions for the new year and letting go of the past, as it’s the only real way to move forward. The same issue also talks about setting aside a physical space in your home as an alter of sorts. A place to meditate and celebrate. A “physical manifestation of your inner spiritual landscape.” I am a collector of memories, of physical objects that have sentimental value, and I suppose I have alters set up all around my apartment I just never attached that word to them. But on Friday, after reading the magazine, I took time to mark a space in my bedroom and fill it with items that create a positive energy for me whenever I look at them. That same day, I sat in front of my alter and followed some of the intention setting suggestions outlined in the other article: specifically writing down names and events and emotions I wanted to shed.
Taking the little pieces of paper, I slowly folded them up individually, softly whispering I forgive you. I release you. I set you free from my heart. In doing so, I open myself up to the universe, inviting in love, light, and life.
And then I burned each and every one.
Less than 24 hours later I’m in my Ashtanga class and the practice thus far had been fierce and focused. I feel strong and courageous As though the intention setting from the day before is already working.
But all of that vanished in a heartbeat when my instructor Jessica suggests I attempt a headstand away from the wall.
At 311 pounds, falling brings with it a certain sense of more than just fear of hurting oneself. There’s the fear of breaking things. Like, not body parts, but, okay, so this one time many years ago my family was on vacation and I was taking a shower. My sister wasn’t in the room, she must have gone with my dad somewhere, but as I was getting out of the raised tub I slipped and tumbled out onto the ground.
The first concern that popped into my head wasn’t whether I’d hurt myself, but whether or not I’d cracked the tile floor as that was gonna be awkward and embarrassing to explain. (The floor and I were both fine.)
These days I weigh considerably less (191.6, as of this morning), but that fear of broken floors and broken chairs is so deeply ingrained, it’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that it’s no longer something I need to worry about.
Look at this way: Earlier in the morning we were doing Boat Pose. This is not exactly a fun or comfortable pose to do anyway, but this particular day I found it even more uncomfortable for no other reason than I’ve lost all my “padding: I could physically feel my tailbone pressing against the floor and it really fucking hurt. (My mat is probably a bit worn down, which doesn’t help, but still.) Yet half an hour later and I forget that and mentally regress 120 some pounds and worry about putting a crack in the hardwood floor of The Studio Cleveland.
But Jessica’s presence in my life has meant so much, so when she asks if I’ll at at least try, for her, I can’t exactly say no. And it’s not as though she’s asking me to do the headstand in the middle of the room, the wall — and she — will still be accessible.
With her standing by, I get on my hands and knees and bend my head down. Fingers entwined, they press against the crown of my head as I brace my forearms onto the mat. Down Dog Legs. On my tip toes I walk forward. I kick up one, then two legs, which are gently grasped by Jessica. Keeping a light grip, then just a touch, I sense her walking around me as I attempt to find my balance.
Her touch gets lighter and lighter until she lets go completely. I hold the pose for about a second before I lose my balance and land in Down Dog.
Looking up, I see her offering her hand for a high five. She tells me to try it again.
So we repeat our little dance, and I again am able to hold the headstand for about a second, maybe a bit longer this time, before I come to the ground.
This time she’s beaming. “It’s a whole near year!” she exclaims.
Yes it is, Jessica. Yes, it is.
Love from the ashes,