Confessions from a Basement Yogi
Annette J. Wick
January 5, 2007
It comes as no surprise that my practice of yoga began in my basement. The basement played a primary role in much of my upbringing. I learned the lyrics to Jay Geil’s Centerfold and Bruce Springstein’s ThunderRoad in the basement of my parent’s home while sitting at an old kitchen table covered by the gold and white checkered tablecloth. In college, our rental home’s only shower was located in the basement. In my first starter home, the pool table took prominence. And now, as I have matured, not aged, in the basement of my current, I began the practice of yoga surrounded by prickly berber carpeting, greystone grey walls and a basket of laundry waiting in the tangerine pink laundry room nearby.
I admit to early ignorance about the practice of yoga. Instead, I confess to finding a bargain bin with Rodney Yee’s gentle pose and sculpted forearms staring up at me in the middle of the grocery aisle between the Cookies and Cereal aisles. The latter being comfort foods for me, during long winter nights after my husband has passed away.
Physically, I had been running five or six miles a week and had found a new workout routine through a local tennis club. Exercise was not new to me, but body work was. I had been seeing a therapist who was also a rolfer. The sheer force of the emotions she unleashed during a deep-tissue massage was in some ways overwhelming. Why not try yoga? I asked myself after wandering to the middle of the Snack aisle. I raced back to the bin, hoping no one else had been given this divine intervention, at least not within the last ten minutes.
Rodney and I began in the basement, after my son left for school in the morning. I loved the dark damp nature of the basement and needed it at the time. I would turn off all the lights and literally let myself fall into the black blank space unsure of what emotions would follow me there, unsure of what emotions would follow me back out.
Soon enough I realized the practice of yoga was helping to release tension in my elbow from typing out my memoir I’ll Be in the Car and pain in my hip from trying to live too fast and speed up my my grief. I found a place where I time crawled and so did I. When my session with Rodney was over, I would shudder with tears and recall my days spent in the basement of my parents house, singing ThunderRoad, the loneliness of Bruce’s voice breaking into my yoga silence. The pain of losing my husband would drain out of my fingertips. Amazingly, I would feel energized and march on through my day.
The months and years alternately crawled and flew. I continued to practice yoga in my basement only. I was self-conscious about my postures, but not really interested in moving my practice to any new levels. Every aspect in my life as a single mother was already new, including how to throw a fastball with my son. There was little sense in adding to the mix.
Then, I remarried. My oldest step-daughter moved into the basement bedroom and occupied the basement bath. The area where I used to have an open space was now occupied by an elliptical machine and a foosball table, neither of which inspired me to become a better person. The view to the small TV was blocked by an old leather recliner. The media room next to my formerly open space contained a large screen TV, a concession to my new husband, and an L-shaped leather pit group. Though the lighting remained the same, and the color of bluish walls remained, my ability to find peace was stifled by the largeness of the TV and couch. Life felt overwhelming when trying to practice in either of these rooms.
In a 3700 square foot home, there was no where to practice in peace. This sounds small, but this realization forced me to pop out of bed one morning and walk into the new yoga studio, yogehOMe, 1.52 miles or four minutes from my home for Traditional Vinyasa. While still our honeymoon phase, my new husband must have certainly expected otherwise on this rainy Saturday morning. But to be bold, one must act quickly.
In the yoga studio, a gentle green graced the walls, a crème painting of budda gave me a focal point for (my drinsi). Candles set the mood and the enclosed space allowed me to see past the piles of laundry. I joined in the Traditional Vinyasa class and at the end, signed on for a five-class pass and decided to give my practice of yoga a dose of intentionality. With lackluster commitment, I tended to my practice every so often.
But the weeks went by and the notion of feeling present in the moment in a house of teenagers and ten year olds boy was not going to happen because everything is an emergency with teenagers and ten year old boys will not stop to look where they are going and simply run you over.
Perhaps it was the purchase of a mat and a ten visit pass that cause me to resign myself to the fact that I would have to leave my house to find peace. Or maybe it was just plain envy over the fact that my husband was now practicing with Rodney, as I had done, so many months ago that was the final shot of reality.
I have since made my way around the mat, trying Hot Yoga, Gentle Yoga and Anusara Inspired. With sweat still streaming out of my pores, I came out of shivasina the after Hot Yoga the other morning. My senses had awakened in a place that felt familiar but it did not feel like the studio. I struggled for moment to ground myself in the dimly lit room. The music had stopped, but the calm raspy voice of the instructor harkened me back to my teenage years and the rhythms pulsing on the stereo. I had found a new space to call my basement.