Got distracted by yoga

Two years ago at Christmas Matt and I went on a week-long yoga holiday. Any friend that I told this, before or after, laughed incredulously. And indeed, me doing yoga for a week was quite funny, and I could not report it with a straight face. We’re doing yoga for a week, ha ha ha. We did yoga for a week, ha ha ha. 

The yoga was Matt’s idea. He’d had gotten quite into yoga that year through lunchtime classes at work, and when we were discussing vacation options , his request was that he be able do yoga every day. My request was that I wanted to be in a pretty place and hang out and look at some water. These two things were rather easy to co-accommodate. When we booked, we confirmed that it was okay that I either come or not come to yoga as I fancied, and I imagined that I would mostly not be going to yoga. I pictured myself as the delinquent yoga student, blowing off class to read by the beach. I did that once, out of 14 classes. The rest I attended, mostly because after two days I realized there really wasn’t anything else to do, and the many hours of lounging were made sweeter by the structure of the two yoga classes we took each day. 

So for a week I went to two yoga classes a day. But I did not enjoy the yoga classes. I enjoyed being in the yoga studio, a raised platform with a thatched roof overlooking the sea. Even now I think of it often, this exceptional place. I enjoyed the savasana — the bit at the end where you lay on your back with your eyes closed. It was always great, often great enough to make up for whatever difficulties came before. And I enjoyed our teacher, and the mantra she told us each day — “you deserve to be happy, you deserve to be healthy, you deserve to be free from pain.” But I didn’t fall in love with yoga during that week. I’d done a fair amount of yoga before that trip — a beginner’s course during college, various one-offs with friends, a few classes at various gyms I’ve been enrolled in. But I never took to it and never felt it was for me. The week of twice-daily oceanfront yoga did not change this assessment. 

Nor did our beach holiday the next year. By then Matt had started yoga teacher training and felt he could do his daily holiday yoga without a formal program, so we decamped to a beachfront apartment rental for a week. Each morning he woke up and made coffee and led himself through an hour of yoga on our little patio overlooking the beach. I’d sit next to him with coffee, looking at the sea turtles pop their heads up out of the water, then at Matt popping his head up for baby cobra. Day three I was convinced to partake, both as a favor to him, he said, a way to practice his verbal cues, and also as a suggestion of something that might help a dark mood I was in. I remember midway through the session crying actual tears, a tantrum, so much did I hate it, the slowness, the repetition, the way it never ended. How you moved through a series of tedious postures, and then had to do them all over again with the other side. How there was no pleasure even in finishing a hard posture, knowing how many more were to come. The savasana, of course, was brilliant, and my mood was much improved after. But I think I joined him once more that trip and then bowed out. It’s not for me, I said. And he said, no worries. 

Matt really loves yoga. Really, really loves it. And he’s very good at it — flexible and focused and determined. Whenever the teacher says, “if that feels good maybe you can move into this harder pose, or this harder one still,”  he does, and it always looks good. I knew this from our earlier yoga experiences together, but I also know it freshly because I saw Matt do yoga this morning in our living room. I was across the room, also doing yoga. 

We now do yoga together on weekend mornings. On weekdays, we have another yoga routine:  he does an advanced class at 10am in the living room along with a teacher on video call. From my desk in the bedroom, I can hear his deep breathing, his oms. Then at 6pm, when work is done, it’s my yoga time. For weeks, he was teaching me each night, my own personal yoga instructor. Now he teaches me a few nights a week, and I watch a video of him teaching me a few nights a week, and Fridays I take off, a little treat, to not do this thing that is so good for me. 

I didn’t decide purposely to give yoga another go. Regular physical exercise is a non-negotiable, for me. My brain needs it, as much as it also fights against it. In the last few years, lunch-time workouts at the gym near my office and occasional barre classes after work had cracked it for me, fit movement into my week in a way I could live with. Now with that off the table, yoga with Matt is the simplest way to fit exercise into my schedule.

The happy surprise is that I like it now. It started out as perfunctory, an easy way to get a necessary thing done. What was I gonna do, run? No. Staying in my home with my husband sounded much simpler. And yet, two months in,  I look forward to yoga. Matt’s private instruction has cracked it for me. He knows when to push me, when to give me a rest. He notes my progress and gives me specific praise. He sees when he’s losing me and knows how to bring me back. He leads meditations during savasana that make it so much more than a little nap. 

I’m not sure yet if yoga is something that will keep, when things open up again. Will I stay the course, or am I just a yogi of convenience? Won’t it be nice to find out, someday? Until then, I’m very grateful for my yoga mat, and my yoga Matt. 

Watercolor by Matt Davis 


The yoga retreat we went to a few years ago (very bare bones but also very lovely)

If you also would like to do yoga with Matt, he has been teaching classes for friends occasionally on Zoom. His next class is Tuesday at 3pm eastern, and you can also follow him on Instagram for future classes.