The first time I walked into Justin’s yoga class, I was ready to leave.
“If I walk out in the middle, don’t be offended,” I told the young, sculpted teacher with a low soothing voice. “I hate yoga. It’s not you.”
He smiled gently and leaned in close. “No problem,” he said.
Dragged to the Yoga Shelter a year and a half ago by my lifelong friend Laura, I was prepared to hate it. I’d tried yoga any number of times and found the long pauses and empty air silly. Too touchy-feely for me. And I never broke a sweat.
Justin clicked on the CD player and my favorite kinds of music poured forth. Brooding coffeehouse tunes. Hip hop. Familiar rock.
The poses rocked, too. I twisted from one warrior pose to another, stretched and leaned, reached and bent, and before long sweat dripped along the side of my face. Wow. An invigorating workout, amazing music and Justin’s delicious guttural voice.
Of course I didn’t leave early, and I started working my schedule around Justin’s classes. Every time I walked out of the studio, I felt stronger, I was stronger, and I was happy.
That was the beginning of the end of my marriage, and the beginning of me. I didn’t know it at the time, and it had nothing to do with Justin, but stepping into a new world, the world of Yoga Shelter, where people walk in the door and are welcome just for showing up, was my first step into defining the life I want to live.
During the throes of the divorce, I found myself one Thursday in Justin’s class, unable to focus. I started to roll up my mat well before class was over. Justin slipped over to me and put a hand on my shoulder. “Just take a rest,” he said. “Just one minute. It’ll help.”
I lay on my back in the smoky-dark of the room, closed my eyes and let the tears come. I couldn’t escape the fears of the unknown that lay ahead and so I gave into them and reckoned with the what-ifs.
And after the divorce, when I faced the silence and began to love it, going to Justin’s yoga class was a gift I gave myself. An hour in which to become ever stronger, an island in time when I knew everything I’ve believed about myself was absolutely and entirely true.
Tonight was Justin’s last class in Michigan. Tuesday, he moves to Los Angeles.
At least 60 people turned out for his last walk-us-through.
“I never would’ve stayed if not for your class,” I said as I hugged him goodbye.
“I know. You had one foot out the door,” Justin said. “I remember.”
I know Justin only as my yoga teacher. We are not best friends, we are not related, I have never sat with him over a cup of green tea. I’m not trying to be melodramatic.
But I’ve had so many endings. And while I know they always signify the beginning of something else, something exciting and uncharted, some new potential I can’t even begin to imagine, I couldn’t help but let the tears come once again tonight.
I cried because I’ve said goodbye to people and to dreams. I cried because as I found a place where I can finally be myself and be so damn strong, it changes and morphs and I must ride those changes to the inevitable horizon – so I can change again – for change comes upon us whether we are ready or not.
Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights. ~Pauline R. Kezer
Do I want it any other way? When the world turns upside down, I want only to right it – and when the path is the same walk under golden leaves, I want to board a plane or a boat or a car and take off for points unknown.
Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them. ~Marcel Proust
It’s all good. Thank you, Justin, for everything. Thank you for bringing me to me. I will miss you.