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learning to be a human again

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

You know when you watch a movie and think, “Praise Hallelujah, I was supposed to watch this movie at this point in my life. The Universe is speaking to me!”

Or, as my husband said recently during a most magical scene of La La Land: “This is a special moment between the three of us. No, no--not you, Jamie. Just the three of us: ‘Emma, Ryan, and me.’”

Movies provide an escape, but also a rather poetic connection of human experience. In other words, shit haps, and it’s nice to know that you can learn to deal, find a new groove, and come out in some form or fashion on the other side. Stories remind us that we’re not alone.

A few weeks ago, I had a particularly special moment with Seabiscuit. As if that story wasn’t cry-me-a-river-of-heaving-tears already, one line in particular brought me to my knees:

“He just needs to learn how to be a horse again.”

Sometimes you just need to learn how to be a human again.

I need to learn how to move like a human being again, instead of this semi-robot I have become over these past five months of not exercising like I have been for the past ten years. Cervical strain, etc...It’s a long story for another time. The point today is not how I got here, but that learning how to reconnect with yourself again on the most fundamental levels feels pretty darn fantastic--and it's a wonderful and most humbling lesson in patience and acceptance.

Pain is a bitch. Pain locks you in fear, and fear prevents you, well, from moving. It prevented me from moving in ways that I knew were good for me--which makes absolutely no sense at all from the outside, but which makes total sense if you have ever experienced anything like that yourself.

Doctors and specialists and tests: Oh my! And do you know what finally got me moving again?

Yoga. That’s right: Freaking yoga.

Yoga, which I always kinda-sorta wanted to do more of, but never got into. Yoga, which, once I officially started exercising for the first time in college, took a backseat to lifting weights and fitting in some cardio (which I also usually didn’t like to do very much) in an empowering attempt to build any muscle at all on my gangly frame. Yoga, which never enticed me with its semi-cult-like following and inevitable “woo factor” that was too woo even for me.

Yes, I wanted to love yoga, but I judged it. And that judgment feels like some kind of mortal sin. Who judges yoga, for crying out loud?! This lady right here.

But no more! I am born again! Or born for the first time!! I'm a believer, and I'm here to spread my new gospel: I have found yoga, and in yoga, I have found the way home to my body.

That said, as with anything, it’s about finding the right fit. I started at home with some YouTube videos and found some relief there. Then I took the plunge and tried a class at a nearby Yogaworks--and walked out with an out-of-body feeling due to all of the blood flow that stunned my frozen nerve endings. Then I signed up for four months of classes, and I have gone almost every single day possible since then.

In many ways, yoga saved me. I am, little by very little, regaining mobility and strength and moving like a human being again. I even had a private dance party in my apartment the other day, my first one in months.

I am starting back at the foundation and enjoying the slow pace. I’m talking basic here: Slow and steady, no crazy poses. Plus, the mindful piece does actually help a lot and serves as a meditation practice. Love me a twofer!

And, as a learning machine, it also feels like a return to school. I learn bits and pieces from every teacher:

  • Initiate movement from my shoulder blades.

  • Don’t focus on perfect form: Just let my body move.

  • Focus on connecting my breath to the transitions between postures.

  • Imagine a duality of energy reaching in both directions, both grounding and rising, both forward and backward.

  • Use the mat to help me with my arch-nemesis pose: Downward-Facing Dog.

  • Use the blocks to start, then remove them if I absolutely don’t need them: It’s okay.

  • It’s okay. Wherever I am today, it’s okay.

Maybe I want to become a yoga teacher now...Just kidding. Though that’s so like me, to leap into yet one more thing. The “Life is short! Do what feeds your spirit!” part of me says, “Do it! Do it!” The “You really need a stable income and health insurance that doesn’t suck!” part of me says, “Let’s hold off for now.” So be it.

Yes, sometimes you just need to learn to be a horse again.

Of course, this line was spoken by Chris Cooper’s character, which made it even more meaningful, because Chris Cooper is the kind of guy who you just know deep down is a soulful thinker who enjoys things like leather-bound journals and the way the light falls on Manhattan skyscrapers on late afternoons.

His line, “Every horse is good for something” also struck a chord at this point in my life when I’m rethinking my entire career trajectory. (Be honest: You do that, too.) That’s right! Every horse is good for something!

So...maybe Seabiscuit is my second new gospel.

Was it the Universe speaking after all? Perhaps. Perhaps it was simply saying, “Give this yoga thing a try. It might not be so sad--if you’re open to it.”

Cheers to well-health, my friends!

Until soon.


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