In the past seven months, since I first joined my yoga studio, I’ve settled into a routine for myself. I take a lunch hour open flow on Tuesdays. I take a beginner class on Wednesday mornings. On Thursdays, I take another lunch hour open flow, and then a tougher flow later in the evening. Finally, I go to a beginner class late Saturday morning.
The other week, the owner of the studio (who also happens to teach my Thursday night class), said to me, “So… when are you coming to my 9 a.m. class on Saturdays? You know you’re not a beginner anymore.”
So that Saturday, instead of sleeping in and then making my way to my usual, beginner yoga class, I sheepishly attended the early morning class.
And man oh man did it kick my ass.
I found myself thinking, This is too much for a Saturday morning. And I don’t think I’m ready for this class. And also Screw this. I miss my beginner class.
But at the end of class, the instructor asked me how I felt. “Good work,” she said, and I knew I’d be back.
When I become a teacher trainee in 2013, it will be rougher than this. It will be that Saturday morning class, times a trillion. I need to be prepared. Otherwise, what business do I have becoming a teacher?
So this morning, I woke up early. I made my way to class. And I worked my ass off.
It will still hard as hell. It was still a struggle. There were things I couldn’t do without somehow obtaining magical powers.
But I could feel myself getting stronger. And that felt damn good.
How do you know when you’re ready to up your game?
I find myself being asked this question a lot. Or at least, “What kind of yoga do you teach/study”, why and what does that mean? This line of questioning never fails to undo me. For me, yoga is life. Yoga of course means union. Yoking yourself. The path of transcending the lower mind and realizing what is greater. In my first yoga teacher training, Swami Jaya Devi explained that yoga was practicing with intention. If you are fully pouring yourself into the moment and whatever it is that you are doing, you are practicing yoga. At that moment I was reminded of what Sakyong Mipham said about enlightenment, that you could realize it even while washing dishes. That literally any moment could be one of awakening. Yoga is vast and complex. The thing that I have found more true the anything about my practice is that no matter how hard you fight it, no matter where your mind runs, the practice will do its work. Yoga is whole and complete. I joke to my friends that “yoga makes everything better” but that’s because it’s true. No matter who you are, there’s a yoga practice for you. The deeper I go in yoga, the more isolated I become and the less alone I feel. Yoga is empty and bursting. Endlessly complex, just like us.
“Lately, everywhere I turn people seem interested in yoga. “Do you ‘do’ yoga?” they ask. “How long have you been doing yoga? What kind of yoga do you do?” When you start “doing” yoga, you miss it all together. It becomes another pastime, rather than a way of being. Try living yoga, being yoga, and notice the difference between doing and being.”—JR (via badgrrrlmeat)
On the first of February, @lululemon tweeted: “That first drop of sweat. A breeze when the door opens in a hot class. What little things in your workout make you happy? #makesmehappy”
I responded: “The first time I kick up into a previously-impossible inversion? That #makesmehappy.”
Their reply: “Nothing quite like crushing your perception of possibility, is there?”
You said it.
My studio focuses on a different pose every month. February’s pose of the month? Handstand. Eek!
I remember kicking up into headstand in one of my very first studio classes. I didn’t really believe I could do it, and it was such a rush to see what I was capable of. Now, I can do it in the center of the room, no problem.
I began working on forearm stand last month. At first, I face-planted every time I tried kicking up. I believed the pose was just plain impossible for me. Now I can kick up successfully 90 percent of the time, and am working on bringing my feet away from the wall for longer and longer periods of time.
But when I heard handstand was this month’s pose, I felt dread. No way, I thought. My arms aren’t strong enough. My shoulders are too tight. My wrists are too weak. I’ll just end up hurting myself. I was only further demoralized when, in an evening class, the instructor had everyone move their mats to the wall, and then said, “Okay. Kick up!” Almost everyone kicked up, immediately. I was the only one climbing my feet up the wall, getting into an L-shape, and prepping from there. It was the first time I felt as if I didn’t belong in that class.
But in my lunchtime class, another instructor held one foot lightly and urged me to bring my other foot away from the wall. I pushed through my hands and arms and zipped up my core. “You’ll definitely have it by the end of the month,” said one of my fellow yogis, a teacher trainee.
And in class this morning, another instructor of mine told me to kick away from the wall. “No… ” I whimpered. “Spot her!” my fellow yogis shouted at her. She finally did, but told me after class that she didn’t think I needed it.
One of these days, I’m just going to have to move past my fear.
We’re only four days into the month of February. There are still 25 days left to go. Suddenly, handstand doesn’t seem too impossible.
What’s the one pose you never thought you’d do that you now rock the shit out of?
The other day, I learned that the folks behind the Wanderlust Festival were giving away a pair of four-day tickets on their Facebook page. How to win? Post a picture of yourself in a yoga pose, post it on their wall, and collect as many “likes” as possible.
I was desperate to go to the festival. My husband and I had already discussed the merits of splurging on Wanderlust, and we had come to a compromise in which we would get one-day passes only.
But I wanted more. I wanted to learn from those I’d only previously learned from on DVD. I wanted to immerse myself in the yoga community. I’d never attended a festival like this before, and I wanted to have some fun.
In the process of choosing that photo, however, I came face to face with my ego.
My instructor had actually taken a photo of me in headstand the month before, but I worried it wasn’t awesome enough. (Ego, anyone?) So I asked my dad to take a new photo of me in headstand. This was the result:
When I saw it, I was horrified. I hated the way my belly pooched out. I hated the way I could see my face turning red from effort. I even hated the way my socks looked.
Later that evening, I went to a callanetics class with my mother. I should have been focused on working hard. Instead, I was thinking about how much I hated my body.
When I returned home later that evening, I asked my husband if there was any pose I didn’t look fat in. I felt upset, frustrated, and helpless. Finally, I begged my husband to take some more (and perhaps more flattering) photos.
I still judged myself. Even though that upward dog felt so good. Even though I could hang out in pigeon forever. Even though I could do a center-of-the-room headstand, no problem.
In the end, I chose the photo where I’m in a seated forward bend because my cat is adorable as hell, and because I love how flexible I’ve become in just six months. (I couldn’t touch my toes before.)
But I also chose that photo because it showed the least skin. I didn’t want people looking at me and thinking: She has no business wearing that outfit. And by the way, look at those rolls of fat when she’s in headstand prep. That’s not how yoga is supposed to look.
Because that’s what I was thinking.
I obviously have a lot of body hate I’m grappling with, and a lot of ground to cover when it comes to ego and ahimsa. Some days, I low how yoga has changed my body (not to mention my spirit). Other days, I berate myself for not doing enough.
And then I get angry at myself for caring so much.
Tell me: How has yoga helped you come to grips with your own body hate?