“Welcome to class, my name is Kelsey and I’ll be guiding you through your eighty-minute moving meditation…”
I’m standing in my bedroom in the two-foot wide strip of wood floor between my bed and my closet. The next day I will teach my first hot yoga class, and I’m cramming for it like it’s finals week. My roommate walks down the hallway and I lower my voice, self-conscious of the strange yoga language.
“We always start class with a collective Pranayama breathing exercise…”
An hour earlier, I was sitting in my writer’s workshop. The workshop meets every Monday night at Solid Bar & Grill in the center of downtown Boise, Idaho. Boise’s downtown scene is lovely—a walk able grid of historic buildings and local businesses where hipsters, businesspeople, and young parents intermingle.
The writing workshop is more casual and the students more committed than the workshops from my undergrad. There’s about twelve of us and we fill a long table in the back of the bar with our books, dog-eared papers, and Mason jars of beer. Most of us are young postgrads figuring out our work situations, writing schedules, and love lives.
Our teacher is Christian Winn, Idaho’s newest Writer-in-Residence. His publications include McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, and the Chattahoochee Review. Christian is 48-years old with blue eyes and salt-and-pepper-hair. His clothing style is a mix between REI and Urban Outfitters—the classic Pacific Northwest uniform. Outfits like plaid flannel button-ups over screen print t-shirts, topped off with thick hipster glasses and Reebok street shoes.
Christian doesn’t practice yoga, but he embodies an eternal youth I have noticed in long-time yoga practitioners. On multiple occasions, I have asked a glowing woman I think is in her twenties how long she has practiced yoga, and she will say something like, “Oh, for about fifteen years. I started when I was twenty-two.”
I appreciate these women’s’ devotion to yoga because yoga is the second love of my life, discovered my senior year of college.
Writing was my first love, emerging freshman year of college after an adolescence of books. As a little kid, I would escape my family trauma by extinguishing my consciousness in books—devouring whole series at a time, raiding my older brother’s bookshelf, spending entire days and evenings between the pages of novels instead of with family or friends.
“What a large vocabulary she has!” my professor uncle would say. “Put that book away, you can’t hide in it,” my nanny would say.
I fell for writing because it gave me something to do with my large vocabulary, my intense love of books, my social identity of Outsider—Observer.
But writing is hard, and it is far easier to not write than it is to write, easier to fantasize about publication than to churn out shitty first drafts. Yoga provided an outlet that circumvented my overthinking-but-not-actually-writing Writer’s Brain and allowed me to express myself and build discipline. The more I got used to stretching and exercising my body on my yoga mat, the more I could ‘get out of my head’—such a sweet, sweet release. The more I practiced yoga, the more I craved it, and a regular practice was built out of not feeling quite myself if I didn’t practice yoga three to five times a week.
My yoga teachers taught me that yoga is a practice in the truest sense of the word. No destination or arrival, just regular practice. Drive to the yoga studio. Get on my mat. Breathe. Do my Down Dogs and Warrior II’s. Get real with my body and find some compassion for it, even those eight extra pounds, that sweaty face, and those flailing limbs during balancing poses.
It’s the same for writing. I learned to just get out my laptop and start typing. To find some compassion for myself as I type a shitty first draft—restraining myself from overanalyzing each word as soon as I type it.
I’ve found this whole process works for life as well. The more I can get on my yoga mat—or start typing on my laptop—even when I’m feeling discouraged, the more I can engage with the messiness of my life and find some compassion for myself when it’s not easy.
Life is messy and hard and beautiful. Same for yoga, same for writing. But I’ve learned it’s all just practice.
Kelsey Crow is a writer and yoga teacher living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with a B.A. in English from Boise State University, and during those four years of college, she practiced academic tourism — studying English literature at University of St Andrews in Scotland and creative writing at University of Washington in Seattle. She loves traveling, cooking, having deep conversations, and Pinterest-ing.