Sweat coursed down my face and my hair stuck to my cheeks in damp clumps. My quads burned the way they used to in dance classes. I relished the moments of resting, concentrating on relaxing all of my muscles from the inside out. I had to focus to keep my breathing measured and purposeful throughout my practice. I thought about quitting a number of times but refused to let myself give up…When I left, I felt lighter, calmer, relaxed—and I knew I’d be back.
This has been my experience thus far in practicing yoga. I’ve only gone to three classes, but I’m completely and utterly hooked. I’m purchasing a monthly pass to Urban Yoga, my favorite studio in downtown Phoenix (beautiful space for practice and wonderful teachers). I want to buy crazy-patterned yoga pants. I want to pose and breathe my way through life. I’ve discovered that I’m pretty jazzed by group chanting. Om…
I’ve practiced yoga before—usually through Groupon deals or with friends. But this time around, it’s different. This time around, I don’t want to take class, I need to take class. I feel like yoga is an element of my life that’s been missing. Because right now, I need to breathe…stretch…and shake—because you better believe homegirl’s muscles are out of practice right now. And I do fall out of poses…and it’s good for me.
I’m approaching my practice differently than I did in the past. Despite the mantra of every yoga teacher I’ve ever taken from—“Yoga is not a competition or a sport”—I naively used to view it that way.
Just last year, I took a class with my boyfriend—who is inordinately flexible for a dude—and his mat was right in front of mine. Instead of tuning into my body, I tuned in to his—and not in a sexy way—in a competitive way. I wanted to stretch further than him, hold poses longer than him; I wanted to win.
Wow, that’s embarrassing to admit. Completely counter to what yoga teaches.
And to make matters worse, if I wasn’t competing with someone else, I was competing with myself. And man was I cruel. I’d get frustrated if I fell out of a pose. I’d get distracted by folks around me who were more advanced. I’d work up negative energy in my body, because I didn’t feel like I was “good at” yoga.
Yes, I’m shaking my head as I write this. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
This time around, it’s different. I’m completely comfortable with going to yoga classes alone; in fact, I have an inkling I’m going to prefer going by myself. I’ve learned how to connect with my body and focus on what’s happening within me instead of what’s going on around me. I still challenge myself, but I’m much more gracious, allowing room for mistakes and shaking and falling. I’ve let go of my personal expectations. My new goal during class is to relax, to live in the moment, to strengthen my body and my mind, and to get rid of the negativity in and around me.
And it’s working.
I’m feeling connection. I’ve already seen an improvement in my strength and flexibility in one week. Last night, I dedicated my practice to someone in my life who needs the good energy. I’ve found myself breathing differently, with more intent, in my regular life. It’s been a godsend at work this past week.
Yes, I’d say I’m exactly where I need to be—on a mat—in yoga class—learning how to let go.
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