If you have to force it. Leave it.
I wish I could tell you about how I went to my first yoga class and it was love at first sight… but… I'd be lying. I spent my first few classes feeling awkward and well… I just didn't get it.
As it began to make sense and I began to recognise some of the postures I became more comfortable and relaxed. But… I wanted every posture to be perfect and when I either couldn't do it or fell out, I would get silently frustrated and tell myself that clearly yoga wasn't for me. Sometimes, if I was feeling a little more melodramatic, I would decide that falling out of dancer's pose for example, was a reflection of not being good enough generally. Cue massive eye roll. But… the frustration, feelings and internal dialogue were real.
Life, however, has a funny way of throwing us little lessons every now and then just to keep us in check.
I found myself with a knee injury and walking even a short distance was agonising. So here I was in a yoga class, ignoring the fact that my right knee was flicking me the proverbial middle finger. I was going to do triangle pose and I was going to do it brilliantly GOD DAMMIT! My ego screamed "YES!" and my knee screamed "NOPE…"
So guess who won that battle!? No matter how hard I pushed, wailed or held my breath, my knee wasn't having any of it. I found myself with a body that I didn't recognise and wasn't responding how it used to or how I thought it should be. That night I went home… sulked and I think I may have even cried.
Now I wish I could say that I sat under a lotus tree and whilst meditating all those feelings evaporated into thin air. But …in reality my frustration and sulking carried on for a few weeks.
There is a phrase "meet yourself with acceptance" which I had never really felt aligned to. But here it was being thrown at me, with bells, whistles and neon lights attached, just in case I missed it. I had two choices; I could continue with my Kevin the teenager style sulk, or I chill the 'eff out.
Surely my body deserved a bit of a break, after all my knee hurt because I'd run 42km and here I was demanding more. So I chose to chill out and so I served official notice to Kevin the teenager…
My next yoga class I went armed with belts, blocks and bolsters; I bought the postures to me and stopped caring about touching my toes. If any posture caused me pain, I simply backed out and trusted that at some point it would be ok. I stopped comparing myself to others. If I fell out of a pose, I laughed and tried again. And most importantly I stopped using "perfection" as my measure of self-worth.
Of course I still get frustrated sometimes….erm did anyone say "the splits?!" But I don't let this consume me anymore; the fact that I can't do the splits doesn't define me… who cares?! It'll come one day and when it does it'll mean more because of the time it's taken to get there.
So if you're ever in a yoga class and you begin to feel frustrated/ disappointed/ sad or even full blown anger try to remember these few things which I learnt during "knee gate." I suffered so you don't have to :)
- It does not matter what the person next to you is doing. Ever!
They might have been a ballet dancer or an Olympic gymnast for all you know. Comparison..Stop it. Now.
- Your body is your best teacher
Sure my words will guide you but your body knows best. If it doesn't feel right - don't do it! Simple as that. The more you start to listen, the more it will tell you.
- There's a phrase "If you have to force it. Leave it".
Well the same applies to Yoga. If you're in a pose holding your breath, straining or feel like your about to pass out/ puke… then you're not practising Yoga. I think it goes under a different name… like sadism
- It's "only" yoga
I don't mean to devalue yoga. I love it and its changed my life. But… it is only Yoga. If you fall out or can't go to practice then it's ok. There are so many pressures in life, please don't let Yoga be one of them.