Susan Butterworth. HeartHeels. Taking up my Mat feature image

Taking up my mat and walking again!

I want to dedicate this post to my sons Ben and Andy who have shown great courage in living with hope in spite of losing their father thirteen years ago to a massive heart attack during a basketball game at their school during a scrimmage with other boys. Watching them rise up and walk again has inspired me to share pieces of this incredible journey with others. While the road has been rocky, it has also given us new ways to keep on going!

After three days of being trapped in my home due to snowy weather, I decided to finally try the hot yoga class my friend Ellen had been recommending for about 3 years.  She had told me that while practicing this particular approach to yoga she had been given a renewed vitality and felt younger than she had in years.  I was convinced that if she found hot yoga to be the balm for fitness, then I would benefit from it also!  With the frigid conditions of January, I was thinking that it would be like going to the Bahamas without getting on a plane.  When I called to inquire about the class, I learned that the temperatures could reach up to 110 degrees.  Perfect conditions compared to the tundra outside.  I welcomed the idea of warming up inside much like a lizard under the sun of a desert sky.

My reasoning for beginning this practice in the midst of winter seemed logical until I stretched out on my mat in the yoga room prior to the class starting.  There was a strange stillness in the room, and I found myself wondering why I had chosen to wear cotton non-wicking clothing, which now clung to my skin.  The heat inside the studio could be summed up with the slang expression of “hotter than the hinges of hell.”   If it was already too hot for me lying perfectly still on my back, then I had a sinking feeling that I’d be physically sick if I moved in this heat.  Just as I was contemplating leaving, our teacher came in.  So as not to embarrass my friend, or myself I stood up rather than fleeing.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror in those first few minutes, and my whole body was slick with sweat.  In fact, my legs were so wet that I couldn’t get my foot to stay on my thigh in the tree pose. It just slid like soap down my leg.  Between poses I was reaching for my water like a baby being weaned from the bottle. 90 minutes and 26 poses later, I was limply lying in a state of exhaustion beyond comprehension.  Looking back, being a lizard in the middle of a snowstorm was a crazy idea!

I wasn’t sure that I could muster up the energy to lift myself off of this mat.  It took all of my strength to dig deep and gradually get up on my knees. Somehow or other, I managed to crawl out of the sweltering heat and into the hallway. My legs were wobbly, and I felt like I might faint.  I slowly stood up and found my way to a chair where others were merrily discussing how invigorated they felt.  Not exactly what I was thinking at the time.  I wanted to feel the healing energy of which they described, but I realized this would be a process for me.

Even though I wanted desperately to be made well on this cold winter night, I found taking up my mat and walking afterwards to be almost impossible.  Only through hearing and seeing others moving again was I able to muster up the courage to roll up my mat and walk again.  Have you ever wanted to be made well in the midst of extraordinary circumstances? Maybe you have even felt like clinging to the present place is better than trying anything different.  Having the courage to get up and move may seem impossible, but I would like to urge you to try!

Grieving the loss of my husband placed me in a frozen state not unlike the wintry conditions.  The warmth of living life fully again surpasses staying in the cold depths of our frigid souls.  This process of learning to walk again was made more manageable through the encouragement of others.  The invitation to move away from those places can be as simple as going to a hot yoga class on the coldest night of winter. On that night, I recalled a passage from a biblical story of Jesus where he told a man who had been sick for 38 years to “Stand up, take up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8) Is it time to stand up? Then, I urge you to ponder these thoughts and venture forward and walk!

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