It had been a while since I’d been to a yoga class. I mean, I practice yoga nearly (yes, nearly) every morning. I have a fairly regular routine. I hit all the right spots. I feel good. My body likes me in the mornings, and I can’t imagine not moving when I get out of bed most mornings. This has become a normal way to start my day.
But a class?
Tonight, when I sat on my mat in the studio, it felt a bit like I was going to confession. I searched my brain trying to remember when the last time I had been to a class was. Forgive me, yoga mat, for I have sinned… it has been… (thinking, thinking, thinking) 4 months since my last yoga class. I hadn’t been since… November? Really? Had it really been that long? Would I remember anything? Can I even breathe properly anymore?
I am ashamed to say that this might be the longest lapse I’ve had since I first began to study yoga seriously in 2007. Prior to that I dipped in and out, non-committed and experimental. But since 2007 I had been pretty durned devout. And now this lapse. There were several reasons. Injuries. Laziness. Busy-ness. New job-ness. November was the month I worked more days than possibly ever in my career before, and travelled to two different countries doing some of that work. Yeah, I was pretty much slipping off the yoga wagon with every bump in the road…
And so here we are, today. Today was a challenge. The week has been a challenge. They all are, I suppose, in different ways. It’s no surprise that I was going to get to a point in the same bumpy road where I’d had enough tottering around aimlessly and I wanted to get back on the yoga wagon, dammit.
So. Yoga. Tonight. Get past the shame… and just get on the mat.
Restorative class. Ahhhhhh, yes.
We are going to hold poses for 3-5 minutes each, the teacher says. Fabulous. I can ease into everything, clear my mind, and focus on the moment.
First pose: a modified butterfly, the teacher says. Great. I know this. I don’t want to call all of the poses by their regular names, the teacher says. I am perplexed. She continues. Because this is a yin class, I don’t want you to have an expectation of what this pose should look like. It’s not a regular pose. Find your own version of this pose, and make it comfortable. Okay. I can do that. And so I do. Ahhh.
We are three poses in when I am reaching toward my right ankle and I notice that my hamstring is tighter than usual. The teacher’s words come at the perfect time. Move until you meet resistance, then stop there. Do not go past that resistance. Sit with it until it is comfortable. If you need to, pull back a little bit — not too much, you still want to push forward — but stay there and then ease into the resistance again, and sit there until you feel your body no longer resist. Once you feel that, the release of the resistance, it means you can then go a little deeper, a bit further. Don’t push it — don’t go further if you feel resistance.
And there it is. I feel my eyes well up. My lips are twitching. I am suddenly thinking of all the places in my life where I am not paying attention. All the relationships in which I am trying to move past resistance, where I am pushing too hard and too often. And it suddenly makes sense. Of course it does, it all does! I think of how I broke my leg last year — a stress fracture caused by pushing too hard past resistance. It’s the same. In relationships of all kinds, including those with my body, I push too hard and too often when I should just be sitting in that slightly uncomfortable in-between zone of “Ooooh.. this doesn’t feel great but it doesn’t feel awful either.. let’s just hang out here until the uncomfortableness fades” because after that is when the good stuff happens. After that is when I can push forward again, a bit deeper this time, because by then all the relevant parts are primed and ready for it. I’m just not usually patient enough to follow this process, dammit. I want change and I want it now. And such an attitude clearly doesn’t work so well.
Cue Dr. Phil.
Dr. Phil would ask me if I’m getting what I really want and need. Is my approach, my habit, my behaviour working for me? Am I getting what I need? I’m gonna say in this case… no. So, forget about intentions (there’s Dr. Phil again). I need to start changin’ things up. I need to start paying attention and staying put for a bit when I meet resistance.
I need to meet resistance where it is, and listen. And just stay there for a while until what was once resistant becomes comfortable. And then — only then — go deeper.