The first time I did yoga was on the island of St. Croix, in the Caribbean, where I had moved in hopes of finding myself.
It was a picturesque day. Blue sky, warm sun, and salty breeze. The studio was at Kalima Center, an oasis in the brightly-colored “city” of Christiansted.
I entered through the juice bar, Lalita, and met a tall Englishman named Jonathan.
“Are you here for yoga?” he asked with curious eyes and smooth, melodic voice. The first time I saw that smile I knew that Jonathan – later, just Jona – and I would be friends.
The place smelled of banana blossoms and fresh ginger. “Join me for dinner afterward?”
My stomach growled. “Not today. I need a pork chop.”
He tried not to appear overly appalled, and said, “Next time, then. Have a good class.”
We walked up the polished staircase to a lofted second story studio, overlooking the koi pond and tortoise-haven courtyard below. The windows were large, arched, with solid wooden shutters that had been thrown wide open.
On the mat, I was instructed to sit with eyes closed and breathe. My anxious mind danced as my lungs screamed and strained in protest. Deep breaths were not my forte.
We moved our bodies, then, in ways that felt both beautiful and magical. Picturing each creature after whom the poses were named, and allowing myself to return to my body when attention wandered, gave me a sense of presence I had never before felt.
At the end, we simply rested. My eyes closed, breath slowed, mind emptied.
I was home. For the first time in my life, I had experienced true peace, felt quietude and safety, and had a glimpse of the kind of person I could be. The kind of person who was steady and at ease.
“Did you like it?” asked Jonathan, as I floated down the staircase.
“Yes,” I breathed. “I will be back.”
And I was; and I have always been, since that day.