Things I’ve Learned From Yoga Class

1.  Pretty much the only way to get me to consistently exercise is to make me pay for a set number of classes up front

I’ve been doing yoga for six or seven years now. As with most things in my life, the degree to which I am consistent with my yoga practice varies wildly depending on things like my mental state, my bank balance, which direction the wind is blowing, what I had for breakfast, whether Mercury is in retrograde…you get the picture. Classes that I have to shell out actual money for seem to be the only way I’ve found to stay really committed to the practice. It’s like my frugal Puritan ancestors are scowling down the generations at me whenever I think about skipping a class I’ve already paid for. Being a disappointment, even to completely imagined ancestors, is not something I handle well, so off to class I go!

2. I’m capable of more than I think

Watching the yoga teacher demonstrate the positions she wants us to get into often involves me snorting sarcastically in my head about how there’s no way my fat ass is going to be able to do that. But then, she sends us to our mats and starts walking us through the pose, and what do you know? I CAN actually do that! It’s not always easy and it’s NEVER pretty…but I can usually do it.

3. I’m not as capable of as much as I thought I’d be

The last time I took a real yoga class, I was about 50lbs lighter and quite a lot more regularly active. I had spent the previous seven winters stacking, carrying and re-stacking many tons of cord wood and 40lb bags of wood pellets to heat the little converted barn that I lived in. I was fat, yes…but also pretty strong. Nowadays, thanks to moving to more civilized living conditions (which I do NOT regret, just so we’re clear – I really like not having to get up and feed the woodstove at 2am just so the pipes don’t freeze), I haven’t had to haul more than the very occasional bag of pellets in about six years. I work a desk job where I often sit for six to eight hours straight without taking more than a two or three minute break to walk to the copier and back. The sum total of all these factors is that I’m still fat, but now I’m also a) nowhere near as strong as I once was and b) really fucking stiff and tight, especially through my lower body. There are dead simple things in yoga that I find INCREDIBLY hard to actually do. And that’s ok, honestly. I’m mostly at peace with it. Which leads me to #4…

4. I don’t have to keep up with anyone

Sally might have done six leg lifts to my three but it doesn’t. Fucking. Matter. We’re all doing what we CAN, and that’s enough. Have you ever tried to give yourself genuine, non-sarcastic, non-second-guessing credit for having done enough? It’s a lot fucking harder than it sounds, believe me…but it’s also very liberating.

5. I’m never going to magically become an extrovert

The class I take is a restorative class, which involves slow movements and poses held for a longer time. There’s a lot of focus on breath, even more-so than with standard yoga, and at the end of class the teacher takes us through a guided relaxation meditation. At the end of the meditation, we slowly sit up, settle back into ourselves, chant “om” a few times (which, honestly, I wasn’t down with it the first couple times but it has grown on me), and then the teacher invites everyone to “extend your greeting to others if you wish”. The first class I went to, I thought this meant saying a general “Namaste” to the room and then peacing the fuck out, BUT NO. What she means is saying “Namaste” to each. person. in. the. room. Like, one at a time, making deliberate eye contact with each person, bowing your head and saying “Namaste”.  I’ll freely admit that I’m straight-up uncomfortable with this. It makes me anxious and completely harshes the mellow I just worked hard on developing over the last 90 minutes of class. After that first class I felt really bad about it, like I was a failure or really immature or something because I couldn’t do two seconds of mild bonding with a bunch of randos. But then that point #4 about doing enough started to kick in and I realized, you know what? Fuck it. She’s saying “extend your greeting IF YOU WISH”. If I don’t wish to extend my greeting, that’s my fucking business. Sitting there with my head bowed and eyes closed while everyone whispers “Namaste” around me is enough. I don’t have to feel bad about being an introvert, just like they don’t have to feel bad about being extroverts. I’ll do me, they can do them, and we’ll all leave class with mellows still intact.

6. I hate practicing. Like, I REALLY hate it

If my mom is reading this, she’s saying something like “no shit, Sherlock” at the computer screen right now, because I’ve ALWAYS been this way. Basketball, multiplication tables, guitar, lines for plays…the list of things she fought with me for refusing to practice as a kid is almost as long as the list she could make you of things that I just straight-up quit on because, if I couldn’t master something within a few tries, I basically wanted no part of it. I don’t know if it was a product of my ADHD or just a character flaw, but I never entirely grew out of it. It’s better than it used to be but it’s something I still struggle with, and yoga class has definitely been stirring it up for me lately.  Logically I know that I’ll get better at things if I keep doing them, but the actual having to repeat things over and over that I KNOW I’m doing incorrectly bugs the shit out of me. Most of the time it’s not even a matter of comparing myself to others, like “oh, Sally can do downward dog without bending her knees and she’s like 70, I should be able to do that”. It’s simply, “the correct way to do downward dog is to not have to bend your knees. I physically can’t do it the correct way, so why bother doing it at all”.

The answer to which is that I paid money to be there so I better damn well do SOME kind of downward dog or those frugal Puritan fucks from #1 are going to come back to haunt the shit out of me, obviously.


More like NO pose. PS: I took this image from Yoga Journal. Hopefully telling you that means they won’t sue me. Ommmmmmmm.

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