Restorative Yoga Had Me at First OM

By Janel Llyod

Our voices rumbled deep in a collective, “Om” as we sat, cross-legged with our hands in prayer. We started the practice the same way we would end it; together. But, the moments in between were not. They were wholly individual; each of us battling our own insecurities on the mat. Mine screamed so loud that I thought that Jesus, Bhudda, and Tupac would rise from the dead and join me in support, but they did not. I would have to do this one on my own.

I’d never been to a restorative yoga class, so I didn’t know that we’d be challenged to stay in each pose for at least three minutes. I’ve grown used to the flow of Vinyasa with a few breaths being all that is required of a pose. If the pose becomes difficult, there’s the constant relief of movement. I know that in a short time I can readjust and, “play” within the pose; just a quick shift of the body and I’m good. A sweet escape. This, until now had been my life motto: If you don’t like what’s happening move, act, or fight back.

Are you in pain? FIGHT IT

Uncomfortable? MOVE

Afraid? ACT

You get the picture. I had never been tested to STAY in my own vulnerability. To understand my limit and move past it feeling all the things that come along with that; sadness, anger, depression, fear etc. I always have an escape plan.

Not this time.

The first pose was when I realized that this was going to be a challenge. We were on breath 47 (not that I was counting) and I made a slight shift in pigeon, hoping it wouldn’t be noticed. Immediately the instructor replies to my nonverbal inquiry with, “Your ego will tell you that you have an itch or that you are in pain. Challenge that. It’s only purpose is to distract you from what is only beginning to open up”.  My mind fought back:

‘Who does she think she is?’

‘A guru?’

‘This is excruciating’

‘How long are we going to be here?’

‘She doesn’t know what’s happening in MY body.’

And, the internal attacks continued; attacks on her, on me, and on my body. All because this time, I couldn’t escape. My ego was holding me captive after being called out in the first 5 minutes. So instead, I continued the pattern of internal inquiry, instructor response, internal attack. Until the last pose.

While lying flat on my back, my hips were thrust in the air held up by a block at the sacrum with my legs butterflied open; a particularly vulnerable pose for women. In my mind, I’m on display- wide open. Everything is uncovered despite my being fully clothed. Something about this pose opens me up and rather than the internal attacks that had been happening for the last 80 minutes, I burst into tears. More than I’ve cried in 3 years combined. I was hysterical. I looked ludicrous but I didn’t care about all of those things, I just wept. I cried for all of the pain and fear and frustration I have felt in the past year.

In this moment, I finally realized that this is what I need to heal. I don’t need to fight, or move, or act; not now. Right now I need to stay. I need to feel the weight of my own vulnerability, understand my fears and release them. Only after my individual unfolding could I rejoin the group and practice in love.  

We ended the practice the same way we started, together in, “OM”- The yogic sound of the universe, encompassing all sounds. The sound that brings us together after we’ve fallen apart.


Janel Llyod is a writer who calls Western Massachutes home. She contributes to Black Girl In Om to test her vulnerability. She uses hiking, trailng running and all things fresh-air to practice self care. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter @lovebeyondfear.