The Goddess Within
By Anne Reynolds
If you had told me fifteen months ago that I would discover my inner goddess through the practice of yoga I probably would’ve spit out whatever I was drinking and told you to lay off the home brewed Kombucha.
I didn’t particularly care for yoga or those that practiced it. In my opinion the typical yogi or yogini could best be exemplified by my old college roommate Chloe and step grandmother, Virginia. Chloe was beautiful, married rich and looked amazing in her Lululemon pants. Yet the only yoga pose she ever practiced was a forward fold when she was trying on shoes at Nordstrom’s. My step-grammy, on the other hand, was stuck in the counterrevolution of the sixties. She preached free love, women’s liberation and spent way too much time in her transparent white leggings. Her favorite pose was snow plow but only if she had a predominately male audience.
Admittedly, my knowledge of yoga was limited but that didn’t stop me from dismissing all yoga practitioners as phony and pretentious. These two women were definitely polar opposites but they were both classic examples of posers, yoga posers.
I had no desire to try yoga but it found me anyway. It didn’t knock politely on the front door of my intolerance. Instead it snuck through the back door of my people-pleasing issues and inability to say no. Stratton had just opened a brand new yoga studio and yoga was quickly becoming one of the most popular non-snow activities at the resort. The consultant for the new studio was also a yoga teacher and we would meet occasionally to discuss employee involvement with our health & wellness initiative. One afternoon she mentioned that she was having trouble finding someone to help with class check-in. Before I could stop myself I said “I’ll do it!” in my best please be my friend, people-pleasing voice. Not one to pass up on free labor she gave me my schedule.
I woke up with a migraine on the day of my first shift. I debated long and hard about calling in sick but people- pleasers don’t call in on their first day. With a long sigh I ripped off the tags of my new yoga pants and went to the studio. I was allowed to join the class after everyone was checked in so against my better judgment and rapidly increasing head pain I unrolled a mat, stood there in my socks and figured how hard could yoga be anyway?
Yoga, as it turned out is hard, very hard. I quickly discovered that I was about as flexible as the LTR (learn to ride) snowboard that I could never seem to learn to ride on. I could barely touch my knees let alone my toes and jumping back to plank position or anything closely related was not happening. By the end of class I was sweating profusely, completely out of breath and sure I had torn every tendon in my body.
Ironically it was the last pose (Savassana a.k.a Corpse pose) that I found the most intimidating. I understood that all I had to do was lie there and play dead for five minutes but the thought of being still longer than 30 seconds with just my own thoughts seemed torturous. While I was lowering myself down on my mat I made a decision that if I couldn’t stand it I would get up, quietly excuse myself and go to the restroom where I would spend the rest of the class checking email on my iPhone.
Something happened during that last pose that prevented me from following through on my planned escape. I don’t know exactly how to describe it but once I settled my body on the mat and started to breathe deeply I felt something inside of me begin to soften and open up. When we finally sat up I felt physically lighter and an overwhelming sense of peace. On the way to my car I noticed that my head didn’t hurt anymore. My migraine was completely gone! That was good enough for me and from that moment on I was hooked.
I now practice yoga daily. I don’t go to class to parade around in the latest yoga fashions or scope out the scene. I also have no plans on giving up all earthly pleasures to move to an Ashram in India. I don’t practice for the physical workout either but I am in the best shape of my life. I am amazed at what my body can do and how strong I am. I can not only touch my toes but I can do handstands and almost a full split.
I practice yoga for one reason only: to feel connected. It’s as simple and complicated as that. When I am able to connect my mind and body with the universe I am able to experience authentic happiness. Does this mean I’ve become a spiritually enlightened goddess? Hardly. Fifteen minutes ago I just used an inordinate amount of force and half a can of Raid to kill a spider. I wish I was in a constant state of Zen but alas, I am still a mere mortal on most days. I continue to struggle with letting go, people pleasing and saying things that I later regret. It’s not uncommon in yoga class for an instructor to remind us to “meet yourself on your mat”. This truism has taught me that the most important relationship you should have is the one with yourself. This means I have to accept me exactly as I am right now. Practicing yoga has given me the ability to understand that my weaknesses are equally as important as my strengths. After all, if I wasn’t a consummate people-pleaser I might not have discovered yoga when I did. When I can accept myself completely I am better able to accept others including the ones I love.
Yes, as it turns out yoga has shown me the path to my inner goddess. This is our true self and everyone has an inner god or goddess. Some days are harder than others to connect with her but when I do I know without a doubt that she is all that is good. She is pure love, beauty and light. She is me.