Colin used to work on Saturdays back when we lived in Calgary and I’d get up early with him and head to hot yoga while he headed to his old job. One particular day, a day I won’t soon forget, I walked to my yoga studio for some extra exercise. Yoga mat strapped to my side, I was ready to take on my day. I remember feeling like a warrior. Like, ‘Girl, you got this!’.
I did not have this.
Let me start by saying I have never made it out of Savasana alive. I cry every time. There is this unbelievable release that happens after an intense guided yoga flow that just overcomes me as we lay honoring our practice. This particular day, though. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened.
One thing that bothers me now is that I don’t know the name of the Yoga teacher that day. I’m actually not sure if I even remember what she looks like or if I even looked at her because it was as if I practiced alone in the packed room of 49 other yogis. To me, there was only her and I.
For those of you who might not have had the opportunity to attend a hot yoga class, generally speaking you would quietly walk in, place your mat on the floor and set up your space appropriately. Once you’re settled in, you stretch your way down into a comfortable Savasana or Corpse pose position until the Yoga Instructor slowly engages you in practice. This day I knew I was really in for it as soon as she started talking. I was always worried when there was an instructor I don’t know yet because I’d wonder how intense her practice would be. Every Yogi is different. What I didn’t expect or ever worry about was a tiny little yogi kicking my ass emotionally that day.
Laying in Savasana she began to ask us to imagine standing up and leaving the room again only to return to the yoga studio, but this time we had to leave our suitcase at the door before we came in to lay down in Savasana. In other words, our baggage was not allowed any further into this room, but we’d spend the next hour and fifteen minutes talking about why. Shit. HOW DID SHE KNOW?!
Our eyes closed, she walked us all back to the change room and then right back in and had us stop as soon as we were inside the doors to the hot yoga studio room. We were instructed to imagine our suitcase in our hand and that the entire room was empty save for her and, well… me.
It was surprising how magically she’d taken over my imagination as if her voice was that of my own narrative. I’d actually left my body where it was and followed her wherever she told me to go. I obeyed. She then said to imagine that whatever we were carrying in this suitcase was something we’ve been needing to let go of for a pretty long time now. We absolutely can not bring it any further into this room. It stays at the door. Put it down. I listened.
As if nothing at all had happened we began our flow as she gently awoke our bodies from Savasana to seated, seated to Mountain. I don’t remember anything about the class itself after that. Only her voice. And her message.
She said, if you’re thinking about your suitcase, don’t worry. It will be there waiting for you when you leave.
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Where the hell was my regular instructor? I actually remember thinking that. I adored my Saturday afternoon Yoga instructor. This one, she was beating me up! I collected myself and drew in my rib cage and pressed further into down dog. She began to talk about the consequences of carrying around this suitcase with us for the rest of our lives. We don’t even open it anyways, she said. Do you know why we keep it though? It comes with consequences. We’re afraid to be brave enough to save ourselves in case the risk of the consequences is too great. Sucker. Punch.
I was so in my head and in my body the entire class. I don’t remember any yummy stretches or how we got back into Savasana but I remember feeling trapped when I got there. Between me and the outside world was now this suitcase I had to face on my way back out of this room. I remember being almost mad. Ridiculous, right? To be mad at the end of a Yoga practice?
She spoke again, softly. She said, something to the tune of: let me tell you something about the suitcase at the back of the room that you carefully put down at the beginning of our practice today. That suitcase is full of baggage that isn’t yours anymore but you carry it around with you every day as if it means something. You carry it around not because you’re not ready to put it down but because you know there are consequences you’ll have to face for doing so. There will be other people you’ll have to leave behind, other things that will have to be left behind also, even if that’s not what you want.
That suitcase you left at the door? You don’t have to take it with you when you leave.
All of a sudden I heard myself sob out loud. No one moved. No one was surprised. It was me alone in a room with just her and my whole heart cracked open and I felt so much relief. I always cry in Savasana because of this beautiful release of energy I feel, and it usually feels like love and peace. This day it was devastation leaving my body while I sobbed uncontrollably. I knew what I had to do and I knew what I would lose when I did. I’d been waiting for someone to say it was ok to choose me.
Then I felt her over my body as she so gently laid a cold cloth scented with Lemongrass over my eyes. A few more moments passed and the class was over.
After we’d finished our practice I took an extra minute or two to gather my water bottle, blocks, towels and mats. I really just needed to let everything set in.
It has been many years since I left that suitcase behind. I did choose me, there were consequences and they hurt like hell, but I saved myself. I continue to save me every day and every day I am more of the woman, wife, leader and friend I strive to be. The suitcase represented a part of my life no one should ever have to face. I chose to leave a parent behind, knowing that others wouldn’t understand and also that relationships would suffer because of my choice. Or else I would.
I chose me.
I chose to save me because if I didn’t then what kind of a leader would I be?