I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads lately. I’m trying to figure out how to juggle what I want to do with my life (write books) with what I’m currently doing (writing marketing emails). I like my job: I get to use the writing part of my brain, the people I work with are lovely, and I can pay bills and put money into my loans. I’m doing okay. The problem is that I was putting so much into writing for them, that I would come home and not have the mental energy to write for me.

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I was not taking care of myself. Physically or mentally. I was/am overworked and stressed. I was letting little things get under my skin. We moved into a new apartment. We’re trying to plan a wedding, with a tiny, tiny budget.

I was constantly tired. A nap every day after work was my treat for myself. And those naps (sometimes almost two hours long) would throw my sleep cycle into total disarray.

Something needed to change.

Right after we moved to our apartment, I started running. Running is absolutely miserable, especially when you have small, weak lungs, no stamina, and no strength. But running really appealed to me, because it was solitary. I got up, most mornings, at around 6:30, laced up my shoes and ran. Not far, and not long, but it was something. I got excited; I started talking about it.

And then my ankles started to hurt after running. Really hurt. “Limping all day” kind of hurt. And I limped on days when I hadn’t been running. I was running too hard, or on the wrong surface, or in the wrong shoes. Something. So I rested, waited, tried again. Couldn’t go a quarter mile without limping.

So I stopped doing anything for a couple weeks, slipping back into my evening naps and miserable mornings, my five-cups of coffee habit, my irritability, my anxiety, my depression.

I started to think about yoga again. I had done yoga on and off since high school. And a few months ago, I had done a 30-day yoga challenge from home. Sometimes the videos were only about twenty minutes long, but I was doing them every day. The problem was, as soon as I hit the 30-day mark and accomplished the challenge, I stopped.

I lack discipline. I need a deadline to write (this post has been a draft for about five days). I need a buddy to hike.

I needed to do something with my body every day, but I knew that I would struggle to overcome my own inertia. I needed accountability. Hey, I’m not totally lacking in self-awareness.

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I needed to go to an actual class.

I found a yoga studio. I looked at their prices. I paid for a two-week trial for new students.

I showed up on the first day of class, bright and early on a Saturday morning, and discovered that I was locked out. A crew clearing a downed telephone wire had delayed my arrival by just enough to make me late. And late students do not (and should not) get allowed in and disturb everyone who got there on time. Plus, hot yoga studios need to keep the heat in the room. I respect this. As should everyone.

So I went home and came back the next day. And I was horrible. I am about as flexible as a cedar plank one of my good days, so you can only imagine how well the first class went. I was completely humiliated. (All in my own head, of course. Everyone there was wonderful.)

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But of course, in my own mind, “People are looking at me. God, everyone can do this except me. I’m terrible. I’m seriously so awful. Please don’t let the teacher come over and try to help me again. Please don’t let me wobble, or fall again. It’s so hot. I’m definitely sweating more than everyone else. Do I smell bad? I need to lie down. I’m going to throw up. Everyone is definitely looking at me.”

You’re supposed to focus on your breathing during yoga. Thoughts float by, but you come back to your breath. Your inhalations and exhalations quiet your mind and fuel your postures (otherwise you find yourself holding your breath to try to stay in a pose). I don’t think I thought about breathing, or anything else other than how soon the class was ending and how fast I could get out of there.

I left feeling like crap. I was drenched in sweat, everything hurt, and I was humiliated. And then a wave of euphoria hit. I felt amazing. My body was amazing. Everything was amazing. The world was amazing and I was amazing in it. The endorphin cavalry had arrived. But I was also so proud of myself. I had struggled, but I had finished.

So I went back. Again and again. I’m still not great at it; I shake and fall, and need to modify my poses. And it makes me feel wonderful.

I learned a valuable lesson by missing the first class and bombing the second class.

I need to get over being good at things. It’s nice to be good at them, but I have to stop abandoning things that are not immediately rewarding or that require hard work.

I can be humbled by my badness.

Caring about what everyone thinks is ridiculous; they’re all focused on their own thing. Obsessing about being the center of negative attention is arrogance and attachment, and there is no room for it.

I may never look as fluid and graceful and strong as my classmates. But I’m not stopping any time soon.

Yoga is not about “good” or “bad,” it’s just about doing. When you focus on your breath and body, the hang-ups and self-consciousness start to fall away. Sweating so much that you have to wring your clothes out at home also does wonders for your focus.

I’m not going to get more or less from yoga depending on how “good” I am at it. I’m going to get something from it by being there.

I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to to dance better than myself. –Mikhail Baryshnikov

One thought on “On being kinda bad at yoga

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