You know how a sound, or a smell, or a taste will take you back and into a memory within a millisecond? That old General Foods International Coffee commercial was spot on. But it isn’t coffee for me. It’s my yoga mat.

I’ve been doing yoga for 18 years now with the same mat. It has just a hint of a sweet, sticky, rubbery-clean smell that has lingered all this time. It’s feels and smells like home.

The scented memories are welcome, I suffer from a hazy amnesia after years of stress ranging from cancer scares and surgeries to police protection from a stalker, abuse in my former marriage, the list is long. But none of that matters when I roll out my mat. The aroma takes me back to happy times, and one memory that stands out from over a decade ago.

I was attending the weekend-long northeast Yoga Journal Live conference with a friend, and somehow we ended up in the elevator with Rodney Yee. He’s a prominent ballet dancer-turned yogi and known around the world, and at the time was a celebrity to me.

My friend and I could not stop looking at his long, perfectly smooth, jet black hair that was pulled back in a pony tail extending more than halfway down his back. He noticed, and with a smile said, “Wow girls, you have a lot of suitcases for a short weekend, what on earth did you bring?”

Gasp!

A perfect icebreaker in a crowded elevator, we chatted all the way to the 16th floor. He was one of the nicest, down-to-earth people I met that weekend. Not only was his celebrity status erased, I got to know him enough from taking his classes that a couple of years later I participated in one of his yoga specials for PBS. I easily go back to some wonderful times in my mind when I roll out my mat.

I love yoga. I have not taught it, but have studied it and shared it, and am still studying. The difference is that I not only do yoga, I apply it to my entire life. It was the first thing that ever felt good after years of joint-pounding aerobics. It was like a drug then, and still is. I have never felt so relaxed, so tuned in, so aware, and so worked-out at the same time.

Yoga is sensory, and changes you in subtle ways that stick with you beyond a keener sense of smell. I enjoy a more relaxed face, softer eyes, a taller stance and better posture. A longer spine, looser hips, a leaner torso, and a sturdier stance. I feel my feet grounded and solid, toes sort of kissing the floor. Did you even know your toes do that? Who really feels their feet on the floor? Yogis do.

You could call it a healthy addiction, I have practiced almost daily since I started, no matter what else is going on. It’s part of the definable foundation in my life. So when I stand on my mat, solid and grounded, soft and aware, and I get that little scent, I smile. For me, yoga is the essence of life.

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