I opened the closet door and lifted my turquoise mat out from where it was wedged in the corner. About ten feet from the bassinet holding my sleeping baby, I unrolled the mat slowly.
The last thing my nurse called out to me was No yoga for six weeks! as I left the hospital with Simon and Dan to go home. My mind wandered to that moment. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It was time.
I put my feet in the middle of the mat, lightly kissing each other, picked up all ten toes and placed them back down from outside to in, fanning them wide to get a solid base. I noticed how the grid of micro bumps on the mat felt on the soles of my feet. My feet looked slender, my toes seemed long. It had been months since I saw the tendons and muscles flexing and relaxing. They had been swallowed up by swollenness for so long.
I straightened my spine, one vertebrae stacked on top of the next, until I was reaching the crown of my head toward the ceiling. My skeleton engaged, creating space for air and blood to flow. The correct alignment gave my muscles instant relief. Inhale. Exhale. I smelled like milk. Shining my palms forward slowly, the muscles hugging my shoulder blades seemed to creak, so tired and forgotten, used to hours of curling forward to feed, rock, hush, embrace a tiny person who needed me. I rolled my shoulders up to my ears and back, tucking my shoulder blades in and forward, balancing the movement with gently pulling my chin back. Inhale. Exhale. Kneecaps engaged, I swept my arms up toward the sky, my soft eyes glancing between my thumbs. Both shoulders cracked, the left, then the right. Standing tall, I could feel muscles in my abdomen and womb call my attention. I breathed into those places, taking note, reconnecting with my body. Worn, but strong.
A few years ago, I left my spouse for six weeks to do research for my next book in Kibera, Kenya. On many levels, it felt like I was as far away from home as I had ever been. The time was good, full, challenging, altering. I spent the days a little hungry, dusty, thirsty and tired, a dull headache as a constant reminder that I was a foreigner in this place. Water, electricity and the Internet were never a given, but things to be sought out and fought for. The food, money, diction, sun, animals, sense of time, and trees were new to me. I thought about being white every single day. I worked myself raw, packing in interviews during the day and transcribing at night. I worried I wasn’t getting the story.
After a long, full day of flying, my plane landed in New York City. Dan was there waiting for me and alternated between holding me and asking me questions on subway and then train ride back to our apartment. His touch was so familiar, but I receive it anew. Our love felt a touch rusty but deep, worn but strong. We basked in reconnecting.
I love those first days home after being away for too long. I am extra mindful and appreciative of the feel of the plush carpet on my feet and the warm shower water between my shoulders. I marvel at the ease of the light switches and bathroom sink. I rediscover the taste of familiar food. I see things in my neighborhood that were always there. My senses heightened, body takes its time settling in to the routine of being home again.
That’s what it felt like to step back onto my yoga mat. It felt like coming home.