Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mothering Yourself - Chapter 1

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world"

Yoga Heals
M.J. Carmen

Chapter 1
Mothering Yourself

Autumn 1986, my neighbor invited me to go with her to a yoga class. I'd heard of yoga but it wasn't the household word it's become today, at least not yet in that neck of the woods. By the end of that first class I knew I'd found what I didn't even know I'd been searching for. I had no idea at the time where yoga would lead me, or even the notion that it would, I only knew I wanted more.

There was a stigma attached to yoga in those days. People were leery. Even my teachers loving husband was reluctant to use the word "yoga". He told people when asked, that his wife taught "slow motion gymnastics". The yoga instructor held classes in the basement of her home. She taught from the doorway between two rooms, a rumpus room and a guest bedroom with furniture pushed aside to create as much space as possible. It was a far cry from the yoga studios we are accustomed to and demanding of today, but no one complained. It was a humble but blessed beginning. Everyone was happy and, on some level, knew we were privileged to be there.
That lovely woman has graced my life since. Now a tint of mother-daughter deepens the hue of our connection. She remembers me from that first night, even to where I was sitting in her basement. Trying to hide more like. I was so confused. Between left and right, and this foot here and that hand there, and which direction to twist, and remember to breathe... Even so, yoga hit me like a bolt of lightning. By the end of my first class I was hooked.

Although yoga compelled me, I was the busy mother of three children, the youngest a tiny nursing babe. I'd signed up for a ten week yoga session but leaving my baby for a couple of hours, even in the capable hands of her father, proved too stressful for me so I dropped out of class. I practiced on my own at home from books, as much as I could. Once my daughter was weaned, I dove headlong into yoga. My appetite for it was voracious. I still pretty much eat, breathe, and sleep it.

Yoga was challenging and confusing, it showed me where weakness and pain existed in my body, but it was fun. I liked the way it felt, the way it made me feel, and I loved the people I was meeting through it. Like true love, the longer we are with it the deeper it goes, and in the beginning I fell simply and hopelessly in love with yoga.

I got an inkling in May 1997 that there was something tucked away, hidden in my body. My friend and I, both busy mothers of three, decided to treat ourselves to a yoga retreat, in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, for the Mothers Day weekend, away from our children. The retreat was, after all, called Mothering Yourself.

I'd learned, as an adult, of the childhood sexual abuse that two of my five siblings had suffered at the hands of our father. One came out of the closet, so to speak, in the hospital after a suicide attempt, and I found out about the other shortly after. One got help. The other succeeded in committing suicide at the age of thirty-six. I don't know if this is normal but I remember an awful lot of trips to the emergency ward so that one child or another could have their stomach pumped after ingesting pills from the medicine chest, or fluid from under some sink. They were never called suicide attempts, and maybe they weren't, but whatever they were they were commonplace in my house.

The possibility that I had been sexually abused as a child existed, but I had no knowledge of it. In fact, I felt guilty, believing that I had somehow escaped a fate so obviously devastating to my siblings
Springtime in the Rockies can be cool but by the end of winter my body craves the sun. The Saturday afternoon session of Mothering Yourself found me outside, standing in the sunshine, sheltered from the wind. I wanted to be outside for the sun but also to be away from the rest of the group. There I was in the lap of mother nature, encircled by stunning mountain vistas, inhaling fresh mountain air, and I was irritated, angry, and I was bitching. At that time, to me, yoga meant hatha yoga, and we'd hardly done any at all. The weekend was half over and we'd just finished sitting, inside, for over an hour, listening to a lecture on a technique called "Riding the Waves of Sensation". I was riding a wave of sensation all right, I was pissed off and it was a tsunami.