Escape into the Arms of Hot Yoga

The hopeful yoga of blended families

By Bahar Anooshahryoga woman-tree-pose

I pull the door forcefully.  It dings open.  Thank God.  I made it just in the nick of time. I am escaping life, his children, his ex-wife and my confused mind into the arms of hot yoga. Perhaps the heat will melt my thoughts and body once and for all.

I am neither the wife type nor the mother type, like most women in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In the four months I have lived here, everywhere I look I see pregnant women and mothers with children. Part of me, the one who has chosen an artistic life, denounces their lifestyle. Another part of me wishes I didn’t fight it so hard; then I wouldn’t have to push him away. At the heart of it, I’m terrified. What if I don’t live up to all the expectations of making a cohesive family from his broken one? What if I lose my own identity in the process of fitting in and winning approval from him and his girls? It is this tug of war I am asking yoga to relieve.

Class starts. By now I have learned to surrender to the practice, trusting it will reveal a truth for me each time. The teacher walks around to guide our bodies with her hands. When my turn comes, her touch brings me to the present and fills me with a strong sense of gratitude. Suddenly I see more than just movement to breath; I see life, all of it, from child to corpse in 75 minutes. We dance and fly like birds. We connect with nature in tree pose and try to find balance against instability. We push through our limitations. Difficult moves pass after a few breaths. I see juxtaposition here, too. Difficult times will pass. Be patient. Take a breath or two or five and stay present.

We experience our own strength and each other’s as we move in unison, each at her own pace. Some inspire us; others are inspired by us. There is community, support, comfort and power in shared breath. What’s more, yoga is free of judgment, an invitation to step into challenges. With childlike freedom we’re willing to try new things, and if we don’t succeed the first time, we’ll do it again with a smile on our lips. No judgment about the cannots. We celebrate the process and enjoy finding more depth in poses. In the company of humility, learning becomes pleasurable.

Gently our bodies travel to the floor for resting poses, in the same way an older body slows down later in life. In the last stages, perhaps advanced age reminds us once again how to feel the joy of happy baby. And then it all ends in corpse pose—still, silent. Life in one class, life in one breath. Tears roll down my face during Savasana, when the truth I was hoping for reveals itself: This is my life. It eventually ends in Savasana anyway, whether I spend it in joy and gratitude or anger and sadness. It’s up to me.

We finish the practice in seated meditation. I bring my hands to my heart, bow to the teacher who inspired me with her humility, and leave allowing this new family, despite its brokenness, to be the source of abundant love in my life, rather than fear. No need to judge my love of creativity or lack of desire for motherhood. No need to try to fit in. I can only bring the authentic me into their lives and accept them in their entirety into mine. I smile in levity and gratitude. Namaste.

Bahar Anooshahr’s blog is

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