I had no idea what to expect as I walked into Gracie-Love for my first session of Thai Yoga Bodyworks. I admit, I’m pretty tightly wound up and sometimes get a little extra anxious before trying a new fitness-related activity. I worry that I’ll somehow embarrass myself, pass out, or run away crying. However, the moment I opened the door of the Gracie-Love studio I was greeted by the owner, Susan Lee, and I practically felt the studio’s tranquil energy reach out and hug me.
Lee is one of the most calming, peaceful souls I’ve ever encountered, and I quickly felt at ease. She began to explain what I could expect during the session; that my body would slowly be moved into a range of yogic poses, and that I would not only experience a physical opening, but an emotional and spiritual one as well. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but hey, when you spend the majority of the week staring at a computer screen, maybe a spiritual awakening is in order.
Before the session, Lee gave me a warm, relaxing foot bath and further explained how the session would reduce my energy level to a truly relaxed state and help me to center myself. Lee explained that no two experiences are alike with this type of yoga practice. We then moved into the yoga studio, where I found lush gold curtains, softly glowing candles, and the beautiful Buddha painting on the wall. Lee laid me down on the large cushioned yoga mat in the center of the studio, comforted by a head pillow, leg bolsters, and a cool mask placed over my eyes. I was already in love with Thai Yoga Bodyworks, and the session hadn’t even started.
She began to slowly move my body into various yoga poses. With each new motion, I was reminded to “breathe in calm, breathe out peace” and to “inhale courage, exhale strength.” I’ve since adopted those mantras into my everyday life. She carefully stretched my muscles with every movement, and throughout the session I could feel the tension, which had gradually built up in my shoulders and back, slowly leave my body. The stress that I’d been harboring from my head to my toes seemed to be stretched away, and I began to feel my body physically “opening.”
Lee stretched me deeper and deeper, instructing me to think of what it is in life I bow to; beauty, art, creativity, happiness, joy, and love. She had me breathe in deeply and repeat the breathing mantra, adding that “our lungs are wings for our heart.” At that moment, I had reached a level of peacefulness that I don’t think I’d yet experienced in my adult life. I then became overwhelmed by a flood of emotions and my eyes began to well up. Tears fell down my face. Oh my God, I thought. What is happening? I was definitely crying, and strangely, it felt okay. It felt good. Perhaps this was my emotional opening, maybe even a spiritual opening.
As the 60-plus-minute experience came to an end, Lee asked that I take my time before getting back up. She concluded the session with a “Namaste,” and exited the room while I lay down for a few blissful minutes. I then realized that I’d cried in front of a complete stranger. Oh, boy. I collected my things, slightly nervous about looking like a weirdo. As soon as I saw Lee back at the greeting area, I couldn’t help but blurt out, “Sorry I cried!” She smiled and assured me that it was perfectly normal. In fact, the release of emotions was a really good thing. I felt like we’d known each other much longer than an hour. I had to give her a big hug before leaving.
Walking out of the studio, I realized that this experience was something that I wasn’t even aware I needed. I’ll just bring extra tissues with me next time.
49 Bradford Street, 2nd Floor, Bristol