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Coming Home

By Joe Daly  

To say that I was nervous was a monumental understatement. This morning, after nearly three months off, I returned to hot yoga.

Didya miss me?

The epic sabbatical was entirely unplanned. For the past few years I worked from home, during which I practiced yoga several times a week, at all hours of the day, as my spacious and uncluttered schedule allowed. Then I took a 12-month contract with a business near Sorrento Valley, and with that job, my free time all but vanished. Between slogging through a 40 hour work week, a soul-whipping daily commute and my busy writing career, my free time evaporated.

On the plus side, my new 14 hour days improved my sleeping habits immeasurably. On the down side, I found myself negotiating away several of my core practices, one of which was yoga.

Sure, the Yoga Tropics schedule offers plenty of early morning and evening classes that fit nicely in with my new schedule, but during this period of transition, I chose to spend my free time with my dogs, catching up on reading and squeezing in runs and plyometric workouts as my schedule and moods allowed.

Like any relationship, the longer you live without something, the easier it is to stay apart from it, and after a month away from my yoga practice, I found myself lacing up the running shoes instead of hopping in the car and taking a yoga class. I made excuses like I didn’t have enough time, I was too tired, etc. None of these held any water. The reality was that I chose an easier workout routine because it fit better into my new schedule. But I missed yoga. Hard.

While preparing to go for a run this morning, inspiration hit me from somewhere deep in my infraconsciousness.

Grab your mat, and go

Was today the day? I guess so. After all, who was I to argue with my innermost self? I grabbed my mat, my Yogitoes, some water and a towel and I headed out the door.

I also brought along a tender tangle of knots buried in my lower back. Three months of running without any sort of yoga had left my entire body sore, achey and inflexible. We athletes tend to embrace these qualities as badges of honor, earned in hard-fought workouts, but what yoga teaches us is that pain and fitness need not go hand-in-hand. Sure, hot yoga offers its share of unique challenges, but unlike long runs and lifting weights, rarely have I ever left a yoga class with more aches and pains than when I started.

Walking into the studio just before noon, I was particularly nervous about the heat. Would it be too much for me after being away for so long? Should I set up near the door?

Nah, I decided. I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kind of guy, anyway, and the heat felt spectacular as I laid my mat down in the front corner. After five minutes in pre-class savasana, the teacher turned on some soft music and we were underway.

Only seconds into child’s pose, I noticed how sharply my flexibility had declined. My shoulders fought hard against my efforts to extend my arms and my tail bone remained high. It appeared that my return to yoga would be one of those “character-building experiences” that rarely feel like a day at Disneyland.

The first forward fold of the day felt even worse. Was anybody looking at me? I wondered, hoping the answer was no. Although I was bent forward holding my crossed elbows in front of me, you could have driven a car between my arms and the floor. At least that’s how it seemed to me; and my hamstrings, if they had vocal cords, would have been screaming in agony. It was at this point–the second pose of the practice–that I understood the price that I had just paid for three months away from yoga.

Of course, the enduring beauty of yoga is that each class is a journey toward your personal edge, wherever that may be located on that day. I understood that while my edge had moved, the benefits that the class offered remained as abundant as if I had never stopped. The feeling that I was starting over again began to excite me. How often does life allow us to revisit something we love as a newcomer again?

Opting to focus on the basics, I watched my breathing and concentrated on the foundations of each pose. Where I used to dabble in the odd enhancement, today I simply practiced the essence of each asana, re-acquainting myself with the fundamentals of each one.

When the floor series began, I chuckled when I realized that I had completely forgotten which pose came next. My old routine was gone, replaced with playful anticipation for every pose and each new direction from the teacher.

With ten minutes to go, it occurred to me that not once had I looked at the clock. This was somewhat stunning, as even in those periods when I would practice on a daily basis, I inevitably found myself glancing at the clock during class. It was as unconscious as breathing. It just happened. Today however, the time remaining didn’t concern me and even after noticing the time, I returned to my pose without thinking about it again.

As class ended, I remained in savasana for five minutes, finally standing up and walking into the cool Encinitas breeze. I was invigorated. Spent, but not sore. Tired, but happy. I felt accomplished. I was home again.

I can’t wait to get back.

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JOE DALY is a freelance music journalist who contributes regular features to a number of magazines, including Metal Hammer, Classic Rock , Bass Guitar Magazine and Outburn. He founded the music section of L.A. culture site, The Nervous Breakdown and he is the music and culture commentator for Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk’sLitReactor. Also, from time to time, he writes angry emails to his HOA. Joe has been writing about music for over twenty years and he has held an astonishing variety of positions in the music business including guitarist, singer, manager and PR slug. When he is not drafting wild-eyed manifestos, Joe enjoys life in San Diego’s groovy North County, doing yoga, running, playing guitar and spending tireless hours in deep and meaningful conversations with his beloved dogs, Cabo and Lola. You can check out some of his most popular essays here and follow him on Twitter: @JoeD_SanDiego

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