Focus. Breathe. Tighten. Relax. Clear your mind. Tune in to your body. Drop your shoulders. Don’t forget to breathe, again.
I hear a seagull outside. Focus, Sarah.
Okay. Don’t drop your belly. Open up your hips. You’re not breathing, again.
That person next to me is really getting into that open-mouthed exhale…
One more breath in. One more breath out. Lean in.
Wait, did the instructor seriously just tell us to picture our internal organs squeezing and flushing out toxins?! That is disgusting. Great, now I can’t get the picture of my insides out of my mind…
This isn’t going so well.
My third yoga class of Self-Care September wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for. I had walked in confidently, my yoga mat tucked securely under my arm. As I set up my little zen spot, unrolling my mat on the floor and positioning my water bottle and towel beside me, I pictured how much better I would be in this class. I was ready. Ready to execute the moves a little more accurately, ready to deepen my extension, and ready to start to get the hang of this whole yoga thing.
That’s not how it went.
My body wasn’t responding to my instruction, my mind wasn’t clearing, and all I could think about was how terrible I am at this whole yoga thing. Crap.
The instructor came over to adjust my form. She lightly pressed her hands on my hips and shoulders, gently repositioning me. As soon as her hands dropped away, so did my confidence. I was trying, but it wasn’t working. As I transitioned from one pose to the next, trying my best to breathe and flow through the movements, I couldn’t arrest the thoughts. Anxiety about work, how my day had gone, and what was still left on my to-do list clouded my focus. I pressed on anyway.
Why wasn’t this working? This was my third class of the week! I should be seeing improvement by now!
As my frustration mounted, I took a look around. I realized I wasn’t the only one needing to drop down to my knees, and I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t entirely, 100% focused. I breathed a little easier. I inhaled, then exhaled. Deeply and completely.
That’s when the acceptance set in.
Suddenly, I accepted that my body wasn’t doing miraculous things on my third class of yoga. I acknowledged the tightness in my muscles that I could not fight, the disquiet in my mind I could not rest. I realized that I was holding on to a resentment towards myself for not being where I wanted to be, yet, and I let it go.
Holy crap was that freeing.
I let go of the feelings of inadequacy. I let go of hating the fact that I wasn’t as strong or as sure as some of the other class participants. I let go of these expectations I had for myself, and I settled in. I focused on doing each movement as best as I could, forgetting about the fact that the best I could do wasn’t very good at all, at the moment.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Letting acceptance flow freely in, frustration and self-doubt flow freely out.
Before I knew it, the class was coming to an end. In a seated position, I pressed my hands together in front of my heart and I took the deepest bow I could manage; giving thanks to the class, to my body, and to the experience. I wiped off the sweat, rolled up my mat, and tucked it back up under my arm as I walked out.
I had finished the rest of the class. I didn’t finish it perfectly, not one little bit, but I finished.
So many times I have left a workout feeling defeated. Mad, frustrated, disappointed. This time was different. No, I didn’t love the class and I didn’t love the instructor and I didn’t love my performance. What I did love, even though it felt like I fumbled my way through the entire 60 minutes, was leaving that class feeling like an accomplishment. Somehow, in failing, I had still made progress.
And you know how I felt? I felt light. I felt open. I felt rejuvenated. I felt free.
I was calm and grateful; grateful for the emotions I had experienced, for the respect I had given my body by showing up, and for the opportunity to learn something more about myself. I felt ready to do it all again.
I can’t wait to get back on my mat.
What is your favorite type of yoga to practice? Do you have a favorite class that you take, or have you ever had any difficulties similar to mine?
*All photos pictured are via Pinterest.