Once upon a time, not too long ago I took an outdoor yoga class in the grass taught by a friend. The August day was beautiful, warm and sunny; but we had just enough shade cover to really enjoy our practice. At one point in downward facing, I remember thinking that the view of the green blades of grass, which of course where the closest in view because in that position your head is upside down, was amazing. I felt lucky to be doing something I love in an open field surrounded by a rolling stream, a colorful meadow and friends.
A third of the way through the class it was time to do a balancing pose. Keep in mind that the ground although dry, in its natural state, can have peaks and valleys. I did the first side with ease and enjoyment. However, as I have mentioned in class, one side will always be harder than the other. In this case the left side balancing pose was harder for me. As I was getting frustrated I caught the eye of the teacher, my friend. I am sure she doesn’t remember this, but I started shaking my head and thought not too polite things about myself. Forever the image of her face at that moment was burned into my brain. At the time, I was so angry with myself for not being able to do that particular pose perfect. However, today that is Not the reason for remembering that moment. The reason for it is because I should know better. I am a yoga teacher. I am trained to understand the body and environmental factors and how they can affect the practice.
A few years ago (not long before I got certified to teach yoga) I decided to run a 7 mile race. Before this I never realized that in my whole life I hadn’t run for more than a mile straight. I trained over the summer, increasing up to 5 ½ miles two weeks before the race. I didn’t set out to try to surpass the amazing times of the men from Kenya that won every year. My goal was simply to finish. A secondary goal was to try and finish without walking. I did finish and I did have to walk; but the reason I had to walk was because I ran the first mile the fastest I ever ran a mile in my life. I simply forgot to pace myself. What I also forgot throughout this process was to stretch. I was so busy trying to figure out how to run that my yoga training was very limited that summer. To this day I still have a hard time placing my hands firmly on the ground next to my feet with my legs straight like I could do before I ran that race. What I am trying to say, is that things that you do in your life, whether early or late will have an effect on your body in the future.
After my class I enjoy speaking to my students. I am delighted to hear excitement when someone completed their first yoga class ever. I am asked many different questions. Sometimes I am asked how to do a pose correctly. A majority of the questions are due to the fact that people don’t understand why they can’t do something like everyone else. My answer is always the same. Keep trying and when your body is ready you will be able to do it. I have heard it all – My wrists hurt in downward facing. I can’t touch my elbows together. I can’t place both my forearms on the floor in a hip flexor. When I am on all fours or in tabletop and I rotate my hips, it is uncomfortable. Then to end they add – I look around and everyone else can do it.
There shouldn’t be any competition in yoga. I have often wondered what it would look like if you could hear me during class but the only thing you could see was what was on your mat. I also think back to my friend’s face when I was being critical during that hot summer day. I know that it is in our nature to be competitive. I know it is in our nature to criticize ourselves. But the next time you walk in the door to my class, can you do me one little favor and try to leave all your negative thoughts at the door?
Walk into yoga class with an open heart and mind. Try something new and different. Try and go to your personal edge. The point where the pose you are doing can’t quite be described as easy, but is in no way painful or uncomfortable. Only focus on enjoying yourself and doing something good for your body. Take the time to take care of you. ♥