Portsmouth, NH | Durham, NH
College, Sweaty

Deep Breath

Julie and I walk through campus with our yoga mats under our arms. We find a sunny, flat spot in the grass outside of the dorm Julie lived in first semester freshman year, and we lay our mats down. The sun is so warm. We’re wearing tank tops. It’s a Tuesday afternoon.

Jules starts playing music from her phone and lays it in the grass. “Let’s start cross-legged on our mats,” she says. She’s never led someone through a yoga class before, but it really doesn’t sound like she’s new to this. I get to be her first student. We sit cross-legged on our mats, hands resting on our knees, palmed turned up to the sky, eyes closed. Students walk to class and laugh and stand at the nearby bus stop and sip their iced coffees. Some stare openly. We are entirely aware of how goofy we look.

The music plays softly from Julie’s Spotify playlist—Kitchen Yog. She made the playlist for post-gym yoga sessions when she rolls out her mat on our kitchen floor. She’s gotten really good at kitchen yoga, actually. That’s where we got the idea for out-on-the-quad yoga. As she tells me to open my eyes and ground myself on my hands and knees, I take a deep breath.
***
Sometimes it feels like I’m spiraling. Shaking hands, spinning thoughts, looking out over the edge of what I know. Who am I after this? I’m not sure. Fog descends, thick and dark. I take a deep breath.
***
I found the song “We Will All Be Changed” by Seryn our freshman year. Second semester, when Jules moved in with Natalia and me, we listened to it a lot, especially on Sundays. I used to doodle the words in my stats class. Now they play as Julie cues us both into downward-facing dog.

We can shape, but can’t control
These possibilities to grow
Weeds amongst the push and pull,
Waiting on the wind to take us

 We can write with ink and pen but
We will sow with seeds instead,
Starting with, words we’ve said
We will all be changed.

There are several yoga poses that I’ve never successfully done before. Several more that I’ve convinced myself I’d never be able to do. Julie cues me into three of these poses—confidently, gently, laughing at us a little bit. She knows where I struggle and she knows where I’m strong. I listen to her steady instructions.

Hands and knees planted firmly on the mat. Table-top pose. Then I bend my other knee and—against all odds—reach back and grab my ankle. “You’ve got it, Hann!” Jules yells. “That looks so awesome!”

Next pose. A bind that makes you look like a spaghetti noodle. (I’ve never really thought of myself as the spaghetti noodle type.) I lunge, leaning forward, arms outstretched. “Now reach your left hand down,” Julie says, “and your right hand back, yes just like that…and drop your shoulder just a bit…yes!” My fingertips brushed. I dropped my shoulder even further, and interlaced my fingers completely. “Yes! That’s it!”
***
Sometimes it feels like I’m flying. Open eyes, beating heart, the future at my fingertips. Who am I after this? I’m not sure. There’s a lovely thrill in that. The people I’ve found and the plan I’ve made and the smell of warm hazelnut coffee and the click of my keyboard in a quiet library room. Butterflies in my stomach, pen to paper for the next chapter. I take a deep breath.
***
Last one. Forearms on the mat, fingers spread wide. Heart beating fast. “Alright, now inch your feet up a little more… a little more… nice,” Julie says. “Left leg up—perfect. Think about pushing off with your right leg rather than kicking up with your left. You got this.” I inch forward, lift my leg up, and probably look pretty skeptical. “You got this,” Jules says again.

I push off, and then, I’m floating.

I bring my right leg straight up with my left. Too quickly. My weight shifts too far into my hands, my head bumps the mat, and I somersault onto the grass just as a UNH bus pulls up to the stop. We’re laughing. We’re laughing so hard we can’t breathe. Jules gives me a high-five, and we start brainstorming what we’ll need to start a yoga studio together. We’re sure it couldn’t be too much more than we already have.
***
I take a deep breath. The sun is warm, it’s a Tuesday afternoon, and my best friend teaches me how to fly. The air smells like spring.

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