Sixty days ago, I flicked on the light of an unfamiliar room, leaned my mattress on its side against the one blue wall, turned to survey the clusters of unopened boxes, and for one long second, stopped breathing.
Moving to Portland had always been The Plan, but I stood that afternoon and felt the weight of the difference between The Plan and The Thing. I’d thought of my move here as a season of weather no one could predict. But then, when I was right there in it, my fingertips numbed, and outside my window was just simple, explicable rain.
Leaving one small home for another, I saw my life reduced to this set of mobile possessions. Sixty days later, with a pieced-together living of jobs that don’t mean much to me and not a lot of space in my head for new friendships, it still sometimes feels like all I really have is stuff.
But just like the difference between The Plan and The Thing — between my noisy thoughts and judgments the (oftentimes sweet) actualities of my life — there is a very real difference between standing and standing in tadasana. Sometimes, when I wake up and rise in my now-unpacked room, I am able to tune into that difference, to stand as a mountain instead of an unsure, twenty-two-year-old girl (woman?).
The power of this kind of thinking, of returning, when one feels upended, to the sensations of the body and breath, is especially great in times of transition. But, for the most part, the first weeks of my move were overtaken by the usual barrage of external concerns: sorting, cleaning, rent paying, address changing, justifying my experience as a human in this world on little pieces of paper and sending those papers to dozens of potential employers — like blowing the loose tufts of a dead dandelion, just hoping something sometime will take root. In the meantime, my connection of body-mind-spirit went largely untended.
I first heard of Yoga Union as many people do: through a thoughtful friend. This friend is named Anna Connelly (you might’ve taken a class with her), and I reached out to her asking, with something like desperation, where a lost sort-of-yogi like myself might fit into the endless, sticky web of Portland studios. She answered, with an immediacy and grace that cut right through the banality of Facebook Messenger: “The term ‘yoga’ itself has completely changed for me since I started going to Yoga Union.” She prefaced this by saying she was biased — that Yoga Union is “certainly not the only place” to practice in Portland — but still, that kind of testimony stands on its own. I could tell she felt supported, that this place and these people were making her life fuller.
The first yoga class I attended in Portland was a sweaty and centering vinyasa, guided by Kate Saul, a teacher I’ve grown to love. In a shift that started small and internal and grew to influence every last corner of my world, that one class — that moment of quietude and balance and focus on what’s really happening, not all that stuff in my head — that class changed everything for me.
I go to it now whenever funds allow. I try not to think of it as “me time,” some extra treat I add on top of the slog of everyday life. I try to think of it as “we time,” as twee a turn of phrase as that is. In this liminal state between old homes and new ones, it’s easy for me to lose sight of who I really want to be in this too-big world. Yoga makes that quite simple for me. It says, Be a person who notices. Notice yourself. Notice others. Notice things as basic as all of us here breathing. Notice your whole spectrum of tender and judgmental and apathetic feelings. Invite them all in for tea. Give thanks. Relentlessly.
I came out of that first class with my guard down enough to smile at the people I passed on the way to the shoe cubbies. I even laughed a little with a stranger when we bumped into each other (adjacent shoe cubbies). Maybe someday it will be more than that. Maybe someday, after five or ten classes, I’ll walk out and say hello to someone, and even know their name. Maybe I’ll think, in the middle of a breath, how nice a little rain feels on my skin on the way to my car.
Portland has yet to feel like my home — but I’m getting there, day by day. Yoga reminds me that everything in this life is a practice. It’s powerful to see what a welcoming home I’ve found in Yoga Union, in its fellowship of loving friends all on a journey together — and it helps, most of all, to know what a nurturing home my body is in itself, offering me its support through every new age and ritual.