How to beat yoga

Spoiler alert: you can’t.

If I were prone to climbing on top of houses, I would shout from the rooftops about how I can’t imagine life without the healing, spiritually-engaging & revitalizing practice of yoga. How it saved my life. How it is and should be accessible for everyone.
So then, what keeps me from going back to yoga class after a hiatus? A hiatus I continue to prolong with excuses.

What is it that terrifies me?

My vague “but I don’t really feel like going (at all this week)” examined betrays a litany of fears. fear blog pic.PNG

What if my shirt rides up? What if I don’t like the teacher’s voice? Or sequence? Or playlist? What if I get there late? What if I’m too hungry, or worse, too full? What if I push too hard and hurt myself? What if I’m not strong or open enough for five full upward facing bows but wrench myself into them because I need to look like I know what I’m doing? What if this class, in some new and horrible way, proves that I do in fact suck at life??

Oh look, I’m already late.

What if I’m not good enough? I speak from experience here. I faced all of these blunders and horrors. In some cases, I made the same mistake for over a decade (see: push too hard…hurt myself).

“Yoga” was the rocky shore I thrashed my shipwrecked self against, not seeing the logical path to salvation was in patiently scaling the slippery boulders. Longing to be perfect at it, not realizing that it is and always will be a “practice” not a “perfect.” Aching to achieve something, but not even aiming my striving in the right direction. I consistently stopped breathing in a violent attempt to make the “right” shape.

Ignoring teachers’ instruction to avoid lotus until my hips were open enough, their gentle pleas to practice at 80% of my edge (“edge” being the ultimate expression of the pose my body is capable of in that moment, where breathing becomes a chore and I’m teetering on pain/strain), I’d work at 115% of my neighbor’s edge (How else could one “win yoga“?), all the while holding my breath, not understanding that the real work was in obeying my coach, my breath, while coaxing it deeper, reforming my body into its ideal vessel. Abandoning steadiness and ease for a gold star. I know now that as soon as I lose control of the breath and don’t back off to regain it, the yoga stops. I am so grateful to have learned this. However long it took is how long it needed to take.

So, if all of those “what ifs” manifest into a 90 minute clusterfck, so be it. I’ve learned and grown through and from all of those trials; e.g., my fitting room vetting process now includes forward folds and twists and usually some (kickass) dance moves. And those are all edge cases anyway. Not to be expected, not the norm. I can count on two hands the classes I’ve regretted attending in my 18 year relationship with yoga.

To be clear, there are days when I straight up shouldn’t go to yoga (at least not the westernized, go-go-go, yang practice we all picture). Like today, as I’m in that sweet spot where I might be able to beat back the cold I feel coming on. Or any day when I’m genuinely worn out. The above does not apply to those days. And on those days, yoga still has plenty of magic to offer. As I learned yesterday in an illuminating yoga training I almost didn’t attend (fear, man), physical postures should only comprise ~12.5% of our practice. An over thinker my whole life, I’ve recently become a diligent student of my ulterior motives. The faster I’m able to recognize fear and grasping among them, the less agony I put myself through over “shoulds.”

I’m through letting fear make my decisions for me. Giant kitchen knives, back bends, long overnight hikes, and my best friend’s resting bitch face used to scare me. They’ve all improved my life beyond my wildest dreams.

So, what keeps me from completing a piece of writing and sharing it? What terrifies me?

There are a thousand facets of the above that I already want to change, to perfect. But I know I need to try to learn and that perfect is the enemy of good.

Finally, in the spirit of practice, of facing down fear, of non-attachment, growth, and honesty, here’s this… Tada!

2 thoughts on “How to beat yoga

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