Redefining Yoga

"If you love something, set it free." —Sherrilyn Kenyon, or maybe someone else who had waaaay too much time to create Facebook memes

Dear Internet,

I walked into my first yoga class when I was eighteen. That means that for the past twelve years my life has revolved around this ancient practice (Okay, so it hasn't been a solid twelve year commitment. There were those moments, mainly in college, where I did a lot more thinking about yoga while sleeping off a hangover than I did any actual yoga. But still—twelve years. Twelve years, I've been organizing my life around asana* classes.).

*For those of you whom I'm related to or suffered with through that bizarre reenactment of Peter Rabbit that the Baptist church put on when we were kids in which they forced us to dress up like vegetables, asana is not some secret code for having cocktails with Satan. It simply means posture. I could have easily said stretching, or attempting to put my foot behind my head instead, but I like to sound smart and superior so I say asana. I also realize this weak attempt to explain my heathen ways probably has no effect on you whatsoever and I'm still on your prayer circle list. To which I reply, "Thank you." Because as far as I'm concerned, I could use all the prayers I can get.

Anyhoo. Twelve years is a long time y'all. Some people don't even stay married for that long. Yet, here I've been rolling out my mat and doing my thing. For. Twelve. Years.*

*For those of you who have me on your prayer circle list because I've "been doing my yoga thing for twelve years," I assure you that does not refer to sacrificing goats, or making burnt offerings, or having graven images before anyone, or worshiping golden calves. It simply means that for twelve years I have been going to a public yoga studio, rolling out a rectangle of rubber, and stretching in the company of others, while sometimes talking about why it's important to be nice, and turn the other cheek, and be kind to everyone—you know, kinda like what Jesus did (I'm sorry was that too far?). But if you don't believe me, you can ask my friend Jan. You can ask her because not only is Jan one of the people I've been "doing my thing with," Jan happens to be a yoga teacher AND the wife of a minister. Yes, a yoga instructor AND a minister's wife. I just blew your mind didn't I? And before you discount her as the wife of some snake charming not real minister from the wild, wild West, Jan and her family live in Wagner, South Carolina. Wagner. And the church they belong is a real, live Methodist church. That's okay I'll wait while you apologize for condemning to me hell for something you've never even participated in. I got all the time in the world because I learned patience in yoga.

Now back to my existential crisis about yoga—the one consistent thing that has defined my life for the past twelve years besides trying to find a husband.

I can blame the following positive life occurrences on yoga:
  • Recovering from my mom's untimely death.
  • Managing my depression.
  • Losing 70lbs.
  • Prolonging my sinful life by lowering my blood pressure, improving my cholesterol, introducing me to a form of exercise that doesn't give me seizures (Okay, I never actually had real seizures, they were just mainly in my head when I thought about having to workout at a gym or go running or heaven forbid—play a team sport), and lowering my stress level (all of which can be proven by science, which I would totally show you if I wasn't too lazy concerned I might have a seizure from working too hard on the Internet, so you're just gonna have to trust me when I say there are numerous studies that scientifically show yoga to be very, very beneficial for your health, and if you don't trust me, well then you're just going to have to go look them up yourself but don't say I didn't warn you about the seizures).
  • Introducing me to a beautiful, supportive group of women who will fly to the other side of the country just to ensure my secret trashy isn't showing on my wedding day while wearing silver glittery Toms and non-matching dresses because I asked them to. They will also do lots of other nice things like tell you when you're getting that far away depressed look, or have salad in your teeth, or smell bad.
  • Helping me not murder anyone while in grad school (see article about yoga as stress relief).
  • Cutting my getting ready time to ten minutes tops, as yoga pants and t-shirts aren't really time intensive wardrobe decisions.
  • Allowing me to meet my husband (Okay, so he's not my husband yet and if this does end up going South I'm totally blaming yoga for it).
I'm sure there are others like making me a nicer, more patient, loving human being, and raising my self-esteem to a normal level, but I didn't want to get too cocky. And you can never be too sure where therapy and anti-depressants end and yoga begins (except I'm not on anti-depressants anymore because of all the yoga).

Nevertheless, the point is—yoga has done amazing things for me. Things I'm very thankful for. Things that make this next sentence sort of hard for me.

I'm kinda over asana. I know, some of you just praised the Lord and others of you are speed dialing me to make sure I have not been abducted by aliens. I thank both camps.

It's just when I wake up in the morning and I check in with what my body wants to do, it's not asana. It's mainly everything but asana. And while I laid in bed last night working out exactly how I was going to tell you this, I suddenly realized I actually have a fantastic reason why. A reason that was so unexpected—and by unexpected I mean that I've been trying to figure this out for moths and only just discovered it last night at 3am even though it had been laying right beside me the whole time—I started to cry because it's so true and perfect and comforting.

Brian is my yoga.

That's right. Brian is my yoga.

For these twelve years, yoga has been the vehicle I've used for knowing myself deeper. For challenging myself. For growing. For learning how to be patient and kind and accepting and loving.

Until it wasn't. Because we can only do so much alone. We need mirrors.

And Brian is now that for me. The love and acceptance that happens between us is much deeper than anything that has ever happened on the mat. And I'd much rather spend my mornings doing that kind of yoga than trying to kick into handstand.


Because at the end of the day yoga is not about the postures or the stretching. It's about radical love and acceptance and deep knowing (Chit Ananda for those of you who know).

And Brian shows me that every single day. He shows me that when I roll over and poke him awake. When I sing the same four bars of one song for a month. When I spend the entire morning writing instead of cleaning the house like I said I would.

He shows me that because he loves me. Because he loves me despite all the weird, annoying things I do. Even because of all the weird, annoying things I do. He loves me even though I'm not perfect.

So suddenly, moving my body through a serious of contrived poses* in order to know that feels sort of meaningless in comparison. (*I'm actually putting this one at the end because lord the can of worms it's going to open.)

And I'm okay with that for now, for Brian to be my yoga. Because he's—our relationship—is pushing me to grow in ways asana never can. Never has.

And if I've learned anything from all the horrible, no good things yoga has helped me overcome, it's that—life is short. And if I've learned anything from yoga, it's—when you find something that lights you up inside, that so perfectly reflects your brilliance, and so so gently pushes against your growing spots you should hold on to that thing like holy heck.

So, that's what I'm doing.

I'm holding on to Brian like holy heck. And I'm taking walks, and writing, and meditating. And I'm doing just fine.

I'm doing more than just fine. I'm doing fantastic. And isn't that sort of the point of yoga, anyway?


*Hey guys can we all just admit that the system of yoga we practice in the West is relatively new and based solely on the ideas of a handful of men? Indian men. Indian men who did not have large boobs and short arms and birthing hips. Indian men who sometimes hit their students with sticks if they were misaligned. Can we all also agree that this is a little crazy? And that maybe we shouldn't be sooo concerned about exactly replicating those poses. And maybe we should stop giving people the stink-eye when they don't really want to do an Eye of the Tiger practice or be the Valedictorian of Asana or could careless about standing on their heads for ten minutes at the time. Because there are other things to life besides yoga. Other things are just as worthy and valuable. And being a yogi does not make you better, or more enlightened, than anyone else. In fact it probably makes you a little worse off in some ways (according the that book that was on the NY Times Bestseller list), especially if you live in the South, where you get the stink-eye for being a yogi. And could we also stop with all the competing and focusing just on asana? Because there are seven other limbs. SEVEN!

**And also could we realize that the above rant does not secretly refer to anyone I know personally or to either of the kulas I've been a part of, but just to the general air of yoga in general, generally speaking?

Feminine? Or Femi-none?

"A well-read woman is a dangerous creature." —Lisa Kleypas

Dear Internet,

I have worried about the following things this week: the current length of my leg hair, whether I could go one more week without an eyebrow wax (I could!), and how exactly I was going to whip up something delicious for dinner while washing all the dishes, scrubbing the grass stains out of Brian's pants, finding a cure for cancer, maintaining a perfectly manicured coif, and working forty hours a week (I could not.).

In short, I have worried about being a woman. And doing all the womanly things I'm expected to do now that I'm shacking up with someone and on my way to being his wife.

Now, before you phone me up to berate me for marrying such a cretin, let me say he does not expect me to do anything of those things. Sure he prefers not to be able to braid my leg hairs and likes a warm meal every once in awhile, but for the most part he grunts and shrugs and does his own laundry and mending. Seriously, I once watched in fascination as he sewed two buttons back on one of his shirts while simultaneously cooking dinner. I mainly watched because he was shirtless—but still. He was raised well and is generally a prince when it comes to these things. It's me who's not.

I expect to be able to do all those things because isn't that what we're told as women? That we must whip up homemade French Laundry quality meals after working all day and managing to keep our hair in the right place (and out of the wrong places)? And that if we don't we somehow fail the wife test and the police come and revoke your license and it's a whole big "thing." I do not like "things." Or failing.

Although, I'm sure you're laughing now if you know me intimately. Because you know I can go weeks—nay months—with chipped nail polish, that I am quite capable of using every last dish in the house before I wash a single one, and well the status of any of my hairs on any given day is usually code orange.

Which was fine when I was single. But now that I'm an almost wife aren't I supposed to get it together? Aren't I supposed to become this neat, tidy, well-organized, multitasking goddess of domesticity while also remaining wildly desirous to my husband?

It makes me tired just thinking about it. Sigh.

Now, because it's almost Mother's Day, I will blame my lack of skills in the domestic arts on my mother, god rest her soul. I will do this mainly because I can and I'm a therapist and it's a trade secret that everything is always our parents' fault.

But to make my case, the woman wasn't exactly the most feminine person in the world. She believed in applying lipstick once a day (in the morning), that panties were to be white, cotton, and bought once a year (for Christmas), and her version of cooking was eating all the icing off a store bought cake (heaven help you if you ate the last piece).

And because I don't want to be accused of trashing my family again, I will add—she had many wonderful qualities that I totally appreciate, keeping house and knowing her way around Sephora were not them.

So, I'm a little deficient in these areas (Ok not the Sephora part. Most of my twenties was spent figuring that element of being a women out, but doing that while also folding laundry is a lesson I have still not yet mastered. I've been too busy cataloging all my shoes).

Figuring out what exactly it does mean to be a wife is also hard since I don't have any sisters and was awkward around most women until I was in my mid-twenties. Okay, I'm still a little awkward around most women. Groups of them often scare me. Hence why my upcoming bridal party consists of four lovely ladies instead of the mandatory herd most Southern weddings call for.

But I digress. Back to all the responsibilities and things I'm at best average at. And yes, I just cringed a little when I wrote that word—average is not something I'm programed to be.

I shall learn how to crush keeping everything tidy while minding my nails. Ok, I probably won't.

Because half of the crap we worry about as women is total bunk. And if you don't believe me please read this book. Seriously.

I picked up How To Be a Woman mainly because the book I really wanted to read wasn't available and navigating this new word wife has been hard for me (something about not having a mom or sisters to ask about these things) and I figured surely I could learn something from "The British version of Tina Fey's Bossypants."

And my god I have! I have learned so many things. I have also spent most nights howling at Brian, "Wait, wait just listen to this part!" as I laughed spit all over him.

Because this book is hilarious, and irreverent, and poignant, and exactly what a *gasp* feminist book should be (why do we hate that word so?).

Not to mention it instantly stopped all the hand-wringing and worrying and fretting. Because it reminded me that we are all in this together. And we have many ways of doing things. And contrary to what my Southern upbringing says there's no rule that mandates you scrub the floor with a toothbrush and always wear pearls. Nor do I have to have twelve pieces of matching silver and sixteen sets of china.

I can do it my way. I can be any kind of wife I want. Any kind of woman I want. And so can you.

And that my friends is what *gasp* feminism is. Saying out loud we're all in this together whether or not you've had your bikini line waxed or not.

Thank you Caitlin Moran for that. And thank you to all the wild, wonderful women I run with who remind me every day there are many different ways to be a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a woman. And that all ways are pretty fantastic (even the ones I poke fun at for having tidy houses and perfect hair).

Now, since it is almost Mother's Day go kiss your mom. Tell her you love her. Thank her for showing you the kind of woman you want to be (or even the kind you don't want to be-although maybe don't say it like that).

Thank her for coming before you. For doing her thing. Because whether or not she was the best role model her existence is exactly why I can sit here typing this while Brian cooks dinner. Exactly why I can have a public opinion and job and fret about all the things I have to do.

Exactly why we can choose the kinds of women we want to be.  And that deserves some thanks whether she was perfect or not.


The following excerpts may use foul language, allude to bodies parts we aren't supposed to talk about in public, and tout liberal ideas. You have been warned.

"Similarly, if we live in a climate where female pubic hair is considered distasteful, or famous and powerful woman are constantly pilloried for being too fat or too thin, or badly dressed, then, eventually, people start breaking into women, and lighting fires in them. Women will get squatters. Clearly, this is not a welcome state of affairs. I don't know about you, but I don't want to wake up one morning and find a load of chancers in my lobby."
"I can't believe we've got to a point where it's basically costing us money to have a vagina. They're making us pay for maintenance and upkeep of our lulus, like they're a communal garden. It's a stealth tax. ...This is money we should be spending on THE ELECTRICITY BILL and CHEESE and BERETS..."
"In a world of infinite possibility, why not learn to hang off a pole by your pelvic floor? It probably will be more useful than learning Latin."

"All weddings seen to boil down to acting like Michael Jackson at the height of his insanity—pretending to be a celebrity for one insanely expensive day. And we know why celebrities have pet monkeys and stupid shoes and the Elephant Man's skeleton and a fun fair and swimming pools shaped like guitars. BECAUSE THEY'RE DYING INSIDE. THEY'RE STARING INTO THE VOID....We communally pity these people as damaged idiots."

"There's so much stuff—in every respect—that we can't afford and yet we sighingly resign ourselves to, in order to join in and feel "normal." But, of course, if everyone is, somehow, too anxious to say what their real situation is, then there is a new, communal, median experience that is being keep secret by everyone being too embarrassed to say, "Don't think I'm a freak, but...""

This Little Light of Mine

"Yes, but I think she's really a writer." —my mom

Dear Internet,

Someone recently asked me why I stopped writing here (*cough, Uncle Mark, cough, cough*), which led me to wonder why I started writing in the first place.

I've always been, shall we say-a sensitive child-a quality often not appreciated by some of my more rational kinfolk. So, at an early age, I began scribbling things down in notebooks or on the backs of discarded pages, least those things-those feelings-escape from my mouth or worse yet my eyes.

Some of you talk over wine, or spend hours on your bike. Some of you take baths or read. Some of you make art, or cook, or doctor on people. Or whatever it is you do to make sense of the world.

I? I write (and walk, and drive, and talk, and a myriad of other things).

But the writing-it just happens. The words come to me and it's all I can do to keep them from spilling out and ruining everything. So instead of blurting them out (vomiting them up?), I pen them down. I write them so I can see if they are true. If they make sense.

I write them so I can understand. 


Because when I don't-when I keep them rattling around inside my head-they turn rancid and bitter. They bite and sting and make me cranky.

And maybe I should just keep them to myself-continuing to fill journals and bits of paper. But I don't believe that's what we're meant to do-to hide ourselves. No, we-we are meant to let our lights shine. And writing? Writing helps me reveal my light-especially when I forgot it's there.

So why then, as this person asked, did I stop writing here?


There are several answers I could give: I was busy and flooded with words, and sights, and sounds-too many to tag, catalog, and trap here; I said a lot of my words over there and didn't have many left for here; I didn't think it was wise for the words I did have to be kept here as they needed some sorting.

Which would all be true. But, there's a better answer I can give-a truer answer. And that's-I haven't felt safe here. Someone I adore, whose opinion matters dearly to me, said some very unkind things about my writing. Trash was the chosen adjective.

Which is right in some ways. What I write is trash-mental, emotional garbage that needs taking out. Cleaning up. Dealt with.

Trash that often makes me cringe when I look at it now. Because I'm not that girl. Hardly ever am once I let the words out on the page. 

It took me a long time to shake that criticism out. To brush it off. To dust off my keys and open myself up again because what I write is so uniquely, heart wrenchingly me. And trash it may be, but it's my trash. It's me.

And the jab seemed to extend far beyond just the words on this page, because as I mentioned before I'm a sensitive child. And opinions matter to me. Those opinions especially matter to me.

So instead of leaving my trash here, I went into hiding. Retreated to my journals, my fiance (yes I have one of those now), and my bed. I let my mental garbage build up and weigh me down. I piled it up and barricaded myself in.

And while sitting amidst the rotting stench of unwritten words, I wished I didn't have this curse. This desire. This impulse to air my garbage out. I wished I could make myself into something more acceptable. Could just sweep my words under the rug and be done with them.

But I can't. I am me. And me writes and has opinions, and makes unusual choices, and marches to the beat of a different drummer, and yes takes her trash out and puts it on the Internet. And that's ok.


In fact, it's more than ok. It's fantastic. Because that's what we're meant to do. We're meant to stand in our lights. To be our true selves. To use our gifts.


Because when we do-when we have the courage to write, or draw, or talk-to live from our hearts-it gives other people permission, encouragement, the desire to do the same. And our world needs more of that-so much more of that.

But now my naivety has been scrapped off and I now know that not everyone can, or will see my trash (or yours) as treasure. No matter how much we wish they could. No matter how much we want them to. No matter how much we love them. Mean things will be said, eyes will be rolled, support will be withheld. And at times we'll feel all alone and it will stink.

But the cracks are where the light gets in. And when we bravely do what it is we're meant to do, other support floods in. Connections form. Hearts open.

And that covers. That mends. Any criticism.

I'm sorry I chickened out. Stuck my head in the sand. Tucked my tail between my legs. That's not the kind of living I believe in.

And I pinkie promise from now on I'll tell my stories, I'll write my words no matter what anyone says about them.