It was a freezing cold day in January of last year. I was an exhausted mommy of a four year old boy, a two year old girl, and a nine month old baby, and I was barely hanging in there. My days as a stay-at-home mom were spent changing diapers, nursing the baby, making meals and cleaning up messes. Someone was always crying in our house. Always. I referred to it as “the soundtrack of my life.” Sometimes I would call my husband and put him on speakerphone just so he could hear the chaos that was my day. Occasionally I would join in the chorus of crying and add my own tears of exhaustion and frustration. The kids were always touching me, hanging on me, fussing at me, or needing me to meet their needs. The baby refused to take a bottle so I had to bring him with me everywhere. I was never ever alone and yet so many times I felt incredibly lonely. My husband tried to be supportive but his work schedule was challenging and unpredictable. I had spent the last five years either pregnant or nursing and my body didn’t even feel like “me” anymore. Being in full fledge mommy mode 24/7 with no breaks was taking a toll on me and I was struggling.
On this particular day I was picking our four year old up from preschool. The baby was crying, my daughter was running wild up and down the hall, and my oldest was throwing a tantrum on the floor because he didn’t want to put on his coat. He was like an octopus with hands and legs flailing everywhere. After several unsuccessful attempts to wrestle him into his coat I stepped back, took a deep breath, and looked up. There on the preschool bulletin board, surrounded by fundraiser reminders and children’s artwork, was a flyer that caught my eye. “Free Exercise Classes” it stated. Free sounded good. That fit in my budget! I scanned the list. Halfway down the page were the words “yoga class three days a week.” I had taken many yoga classes over the years and it was my favorite form of exercise. It didn’t involve excessive sweating or give me that awful feeling that I might just die right in the middle of my exercise routine. Plus there was that lovely quiet part at the end where we laid on our mats, breathed deeply, and relaxed. Yes, yoga sounded perfect.
My mother-in-law agreed to watch the kiddos and so the next day I squeezed myself into my too tight yoga pants, tucked my mat under my arm, and walked into the meeting room at a church where about ten other women had gathered. Was it hard, you ask, to walk into a room where I knew no one and ask to join them? Maybe a little. But it would have been so much harder to stay home.
Everyone was incredibly welcoming. I picked a spot close to the instructor and unrolled my mat. The class began with stretching and it felt good to use muscles that had been neglected for far too long. I savored the silence and the fact that I could breathe deeply without getting a whiff of stinky diapers and baby spit up. This was just the thing I needed. I smiled at the realization that I could relax and not be hyper aware of my surroundings. At home with the kiddos I was always listening. Listening to all the noise to figure out what they were doing, listening to their cries to determine if they were hurt, hungry, or tired, and especially listening to the rare silence. Silence with three young kiddos was never a good sign! I even listened in my sleep for the sounds of the baby stirring. For the first time in months I could truly relax and enjoy the quiet.
Then one of the other women taking the class broke the silence by telling a funny story about an incident that had happened to her that week. All the other yoga classes I had ever taken had been very quiet with only the teacher’s instructions guiding us. I had never really talked to anyone at those other classes except to say hello and goodbye. I assumed she must be new to the class as well and not aware of typical yoga etiquette. Everyone chuckled at her story as we moved into some more challenging exercises. Then another woman asked a question about someone’s relative who had been sick, and another shared a story about her job, and it dawned on me that these women were friends! They were not strangers who happened to take a yoga class together, they knew about each other’s lives outside of class. I smiled to myself. This class was going to be even better than I had thought!
I had assumed that given the fact that I had taken many yoga classes over the years I’d be able to easily keep up. Friends, let me tell you, these women were strong! Halfway through the class my arms were shaking and my muscles were burning, yet I appeared to be the only one struggling to keep up. I was impressed! And the best part of the whole class was that we laughed a lot. It’s amazing how far you can push yourself when you aren’t focusing on your sore muscles. By the end of the class I felt amazing. I couldn’t wait to go back!
I attended the class as often as I could. Not only did I become physically stronger, but mentally I found that I was so much happier. Stepping out of my role as “mommy” and allowing myself to relax, focus, and breathe made a huge difference. When I picked up my kids after each class I was more patient and calm. Even though life with three young kids was just as wild and crazy as ever, just knowing I was going to have a break every few days helped tremendously.
Over the past year these women have become some of my favorite friends. We’ve seen each other through illnesses, loss of loved ones, celebrated birthdays, and shared stories of so many moments of life. They are the most welcoming group who genuinely care about and support each other. I’ve never heard a gossipy or unkind remark about anyone. If someone is struggling, we encourage her. If someone is happy, we celebrate. Women from all walks of life gather together three times a week and gain strength both from the exercises and from each other. It’s inspiring!
I can’t figure out how to adequately put into words what this group of women have given me. They have given me back myself, the part of me that was buried under the never-ending demands of motherhood. They have added more peace, joy, and strength to my life. I like my friends feisty and funny, and these women know how to have a good time! I’d love to tell you stories, but what happens in yoga class stays in yoga class. Let’s just say that for an exercise group that meets at a church these women can tell some stories that might make you blush! They are hilarious and I am so grateful for their friendship. Also, it doesn’t hurt that our instructor tells us all the time that we’re awesome!
Friends, no matter what stage of life you are in, I encourage you to find groups of friends who encourage and inspire you. Bonus points if they help you become healthier too! Find people with whom you can be yourself, even if being yourself means that you are a hot mess and wearing too tight yoga pants. As we set goals for this year and we strive to be healthier let’s also decide to be brave, take some risks, meet new people, and expand our world. Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year!
Have a beautiful day!