The word alone can have different meanings. It may be a term used to push yourself outside of your boundaries. It can mean a long period of time. Sometimes, it’s another word for an exaggeration. Or, it can be done to make something longer or wider without tearing.
When I woke up this morning, the word simply meant that I needed to stretch my limbs and muscles. I’ve been pushing my body especially hard over the last couple of weeks during my workouts, causing my quads and biceps to scream accusations of torture! I needed a break from the treadmills, spin bikes, and park paths. Somewhere between my creaky joints and tight muscles, I could hear the yoga studio beckoning me. I hoped that an hour of stretching my muscles in a warm room, while listening to the sounds of peaceful music and a tender voice, might be the healthy dose of therapy that my body needed. And so, with my midnight blue, Jade yoga mat, I went to find my “inner bliss” at a morning yoga class.
It was my first time going to a yoga class alone. And even though I like to think of myself as an independent woman, it was a bit of a stretch for me. While the practice of yoga is meant for ones self, I always practiced yoga as a group activity. My introduction to yoga was through a group of girlfriends. Every Tuesday night, we lined up our mats in a row for Warm Flow Yoga. And after an hour of stretching and awkward poses, we hit the local wine bar for post-yoga cocktails. It was a social night that we dubbed as a healthy evening for our bodies and spirits (a full-bodied red wine was the spirit of choice). Eventually, Tuesday nights with the girls became a trend that ended. But for me, it was replaced by morning yoga with a guy I was dating. And it was the perfect way to start my day! A healthy dose of stretching and bonding with my new love. It became our weekly ritual. And at the end of a hot, sweaty class, he would always stretch his hand in my direction and touch his fingertips to mine. It was a show of affection during a quiet moment while we laid on our backs, listening to some soulful song by Ed Sheeren, John Legend, or Christina Perri.
It was the kind of stretch that I coveted every week. Honestly, stretching never felt so good as it did during those moments. But just like yoga with the girls, yoga with my guy came to an end. And so did my time with the yoga mat. Until today.
It was time for me to stretch. Not just my limbs and muscles. But I also needed to stretch my way of thinking. The activity I became accustomed to doing with others was now one that I needed to do alone. For my independence. For my body. And for myself.
With my mat and bag in tow, I headed out the door to MY yoga class. I was headed in the direction of my usual studio, but when I looked at the time, I knew that I would be late if I didn’t reroute myself to a closer studio. And so I pulled into a new location. With an unfamiliar instructor. In a room filled with strange faces.
I quietly picked my spot in the back of the yoga studio, next to a first-timer. I knew that my floor mate was a beginner because he was getting a tutorial from an older gentleman in the class. My yoga neighbor was in some branch of the military. He looked strong, but it was clear that coming to a yoga class was a stretch for him. This was a young man who fought for peace, though he never experienced inner peace while balancing his body in a Reverse Warrior pose. But he seemed up for the challenge.
Stretching in front of me was a young woman who appeared to be a yoga regular, as she moved in and out of every yoga pose with balance and grace. Her perfectly shaped bald head showed that she was fighting a battle of her own, but the cancer did not keep her from stretching her way through Crow and Dragonfly poses. If you’ve never practiced yoga, trust me, these poses are impressive to watch. It’s amazing what the human body can do... If you stretch it beyond the limitations you once placed upon it.
As class ended, the instructor told us to lay on our backs, with our eyes closed, and our palms facing the ceiling. An acoustic version of “Higher Love” began to play with a voice I’ve never heard before. There was something angelic and soulful about this voice. And in the quiet of the room, the words of the song spoke to my soul. When I first went to yoga, it was because of my friends. And then it was because of a man. This time, I went for myself. At the end of class, I substituted red wine for a bottle of water. And while I laid still on my back, there were no fingers for me to touch. (Well, there were. But the soldier to my right and woman to my left might have thought it strange if I reached out to touch them). In that peaceful moment, it was just me, on my own, soaking in the lyrics of a “Higher Love.”
Yes, socializing with friends can be good for the soul. And loving another human being can be good for the heart. But putting yourself first may bring you to a higher love.
We can’t be afraid to embrace our own independence. Sometimes you have to travel the path alone. It may seem like a stretch when you’re accustomed to walking in step with another. But the word alone suggests that you can stretch without tearing or breaking.
I realize that there can be a feeling of loneliness when you’re alone. But if you’re willing to stretch... you just might reach a higher love.