Oooh, it’s a special guest post from the delightful Suzanne Morrison, author of Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment! She shares a story about one of her favourite yoga classes ever, which took place right here in Montreal. Suzanne is a writer and performer based in Seattle, Washington. Yoga Bitch is based on her long-running one-woman show, which played around the world to rave reviews.
Do you remember how much it sucks to be 25? Holy good god, it’s wretched. I mean, maybe you’re in your twenties now, and you’re all: Hey, old lady, it’s great out here with my drunken twittering and sexting and watching Dance Moms with this boyfriend I swear to God I’m going to love forever. But I am here to tell you: You are in hell. You just don’t know it yet.
It’s great fun, sure—all that drinking and smoking and staying up late. All the big plans for the future. I’m sure it was wonderful to have no wrinkles around my eyes. But honestly? I’ll be 35 this fall and it’s just a better place to be. At 25, I was sick with worry. I didn’t know what the future held for me, for my relationship, for my family; if I would become the person I wanted to become. I wasn’t even entirely sure who that person was. I had recently graduated from college and as a writer and performer I knew I had to leave my hometown of Seattle for New York in order to make a career for myself. But I didn’t want to leave. I loved Seattle, loved being near my family, loved the rain and the coffeeshops and the bookstores.
I felt like my grandparents would age ten years the day I left Seattle. I worried I would lose people. Friends, family members. That we would grow apart and eventually not even miss each other. I dreaded the day when I would start referring to New York as my home.
And then September 11th happened, and I started doing yoga. I quickly developed a sort of teacher crush on Indra, a tall, wise, beautiful yoga teacher who had found herself, her spirituality, and the love of her life through yoga. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was in the market for all of those things. I thought that if yoga had made Indra the amazing woman she was, then maybe it had something to offer me.
By the holidays, I was seriously considering following Indra to Bali for a two-month yoga teacher training program. Not because I wanted to be a yoga teacher. I just wanted to get outside of my life long enough to breathe and stretch and think. I didn’t really know what I expected from two months of yoga practice; I just knew in some deep, unformed way that I wanted to get away from everyone I loved in order to get my head together before I leapt into the unknown.
Oh, but I was a worrier: Did it make sense to take two months away from my family and friends? Would I be squandering what little time we had left in the same city before I moved away forever? And the world felt so dangerous that year. Everyone told me I was crazy to even think about traveling to the largest Muslim country in the world so soon after September 11th. So I worried about that, too.
That December, I flew to Montreal to visit my friend Tiffany, who was studying for her masters in music there. I stepped onto the plane imagining all kinds of worst-case scenarios, but I told myself that this was a test: if I couldn’t get through this flight, I would never be able to fly to Bali in a few months.
Tiffany and I had a grand old time together in frozen Montreal. I loved the novelty of speaking French in North America. Loved walking the old cobbled streets of Tiffany’s neighborhood. And most of all, I loved sitting around with Tiffany watching old movies and eating pasta and way too much chocolate, as we had done since we were teenagers. See: it wasn’t all bad being twenty-five.
On my first day in town, we spent five hours at Chapters leafing through Anais Nin’s books and salivating over the stationery section. I bought a new journal, a teal leather-bound volume that looked as if it had been designed for a real writer. I didn’t know it yet, of course, but soon I would be filling its pages with the rough material for a book I would publish nine years later, Yoga Bitch.
Tiffany had recently discovered yoga as well, so on my last night in town, she took me to the Sivananda Center for one of her favorite classes. The only yoga classes I had ever taken were from Indra and her partner, Lou, plus one or two classes at the gym my sister worked at. I didn’t know about the fancypants yoga classes out there, the burgeoning celebriyogis and purveyors of sacred schwag. Lululemon was not yet a household name. Yoga still seemed to be an ancient spiritual practice more connected to hippies than yuppies. The Sivananda Center suggested that this was still the case.
The lights in the studio were as dim as they could be without plunging us into darkness. The class was in French, and for the first thirty minutes we were led in kapalbhati, exhaling forcefully over and over again to the beat of the teacher’s order to exhale, which she shortened to “Eeks! Eeks! Eeks! Eeks!”
We moved from one posture to the next, resting in savasana in between, and something rare happened in the space between the poses. I became certain of something. I was so rarely certain of anything in those days. But I knew I was going to go to Bali. That it was what I needed to do. Something about the way my chest expanded in that class told me this was precisely what I was supposed to be doing, and that if I just kept doing this—breathing, stretching—I would find my way. Nearly a decade later, I know I was right, and that that was the moment I found a path through the worry and confusion of my twenties, a path that would lead me to all kinds of new and wonderful places, starting with Bali.
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