On My Mat


On My Mat 

I arrive early, of course - find my vacant spot
By the wall
Breath in - no deviation from established routine
Align my mat with lines in the hardwood

Body memories surface and fall with me
Safety and hellos
A wall of glass - two stories up overlooks
Evergreens - I’ve spent time studying 

Light snow, its gentle endless swarming
Like a flight of starlings - I can almost hear their wings
In the wind as it carries them home
I watch and am lost, breathing in 

The beautiful dance just for me as no one else seems to notice

Later I will face this wall - look through the focused
Translucent reflection of myself all the way through to the outside
World of moving clouds
From my Fierce Angle Pose (Utkata Konasana)

I love the name’s resonance with my confidence at this age

At the front of my mat
Out of view from a mirror that would otherwise
Disrupt my fantasy - that I do not hate
My appearance - not at all - 

I engage, legs active now, taking Mountain Pose (Ladasana) 
On my mat that does not judge if my toenails are painted
Or what the scale says
Or even if I remembered a fresh coat of deodorant 

I stretch instinctively
Love my body back from the dead
While my back protests - I hear a distant voice - my mother.
In my mind’s eye she is saying - This child is stiff as an ironing board

I have been here before
My body and I, one - though - I am no American Yogi
There are many roads to this place where the body meets the mind
Muscle memory responds on que when the real Goddess
Among us instructs - a 5,000-year old tradition of saints and sages
I wonder who she is when she is not before us wearing Athleta

I follow her familiar, trusting voice
Admire her chiseled rhomboid
Close my eyes and enter under the surface
Of my thoughts

Still upright, my mind meets my limbs
She encourages Let go, let go..
My nose meets my knees as I reach and bend from above
Exhale and fold myself in two, place my hands
On the ground - my eyes close - I envision the earth.

I fight distractions - comparisons, self-judgments
The list of things to do
It is my quest and nothing less will suffice
My body needs me now

Soft abs engage
Pelvic floor follows on command like an eager child
Fingers stretch outward like a starfish
My toes - good students - do the same 

Four-Limbed Staff (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
My body perspires and calls out with joy
Upward Facing Dog - the tops of my feet meet the floor flat
Arms straighten - back bends - face and chest open

To the invisible sunlight kissing my cheeks
My spine says thank you and slow down 

A woman behind me gathers her things
Exits in defeat, leaves the abandoned gym-issued mat
Door closes behind her as Van Morrison bellows in his manly voice, Days Like This

I can’t unsee the hurting even if I can’t tell you what she looks like
Gentle Yoga is not always gentle when you’re at war
With your body
Not easy at all 

On my mat I resist the urge to follow
Her though many seconds pass as I hold my pose
I imagine saying Don’t go. It’s okay - looking her in the eyes
Coming back into my body - Child’s Pose now
Instead I send her peace and good wishes on a prayer

It’s getting harder now - my limbs shake
Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Why so many dog references? I wonder as my spine obeys
My jaw clenches when I’m upside down
Relaxing my head - I gaze at my belly - willing it
Come on board and give my glutes a break

My shirt rises to expose my vulnerability
And I let go more - Warrior One, Two, and Three awakening
My story, my desire
To feel 

Powerful, alive, grateful
For this body, this life
At one with other women
On my mat