First words from the teacher, first breaths on my mat and nothing felt right. I never know how to handle this start to practice, when I just don’t jive with what’s going on around me and everything feels wrong. In my own practice time I never have a plan to adhere to so I don’t confront this kind of problem; I just roll with it and ease my way through however feels best to me. I’m marching to my own tune.
So in class, what to do? I tried to ignore it, to knuckle down to what the teacher was asking for, even though it felt terrible. None of his instructions made sense in my body, none of his observations about the group’s practice seemed to apply to me. I felt like an outcast within this group, a failure dressed up as a yogi but not able to play by the rules as everyone else understood them.
In the end I left the room. I thought a break might help. If I’d taken my mat with me I could have done a great practice in the changing room on my own! Instead I curled into a tight ball, clenched fists, trying to hold back tears of frustration, feelings of fear and failure.
The young receptionist came and checked on me. I told her I was trying to summon up the courage to go back into the yoga room and she looked at me with an expression of incredulous wonder: “If anyone has the courage, you do!” She shook her head slightly in disbelief that this was my problem. I don’t know what she sees in me but it was what I needed to hear. A affirmative message of belonging although I felt like a total yoga reject, unable even to stay on my mat and not disrupt the class and the teacher by leaving. My teacher knows I’m doing a bit of heavy work at the moment and is being really fabulous, and we’ve agreed it’s OK if I want to leave… but I still feel like I’m letting him and myself down if I can’t stay the distance.
So I high-fived the receptionist (to her surprise!), put on my game-face and went back in. And somehow I found my way through the rest of practice, more numb than present I’ll admit, but with some pride that I didn’t give up when it got tough. I have been here before and I know the feelings of panic and overwhelm that I experience in my practice will pass in time.
And in the light of a fresh day I’ve been focusing on this sense of pride in myself, seeing my undoubted strength and feeling some optimism that I do now have the resources to manage myself through this difficult patch.
So I was sort of bitterly amused by the studio’s FB page today featuring a link to an upbeat article called “How yoga makes us happy”. I’m glad if that’s the majority experience, and I have those lovely carefree days too. But I know it’s also OK to have those moments when it’s not like that, when each breath has to be dredged up from the depths, kept steady only by a great act of concentration; when each asana is an act of faith in mind and body to create these shapes and each transition feels like jumping over a crevasse, one slip of focus and I’ll fall into the darkness between the cracks.
This too is my yoga. And the lessons I learn here are what the receptionist could see in my eyes, the reason she views me as a woman full of power, clarity and assurance. I am that too. It’s just that I’m currently manifesting as a crumpled mess!
Class last night had been all about Hanuman. It made no sense to me then. But today I wonder if coming back to take my place within the group was my own ‘great leap’. Not so much an act of devotional love, but a sure gesture of faith in myself and my abilities and in my teacher and his willingness to hold this space for me.
A little Hanuman today. And maybe tomorrow there’ll be those yoga unicorns that social media seems to promise 😉