When people ask me where I’m going or what I’m doing, I generally give one of two answers: going to get a cappuccino (Sam James Coffee Pocket, I heart you!) or going to yoga. The first response is fairly standard for a foodie-ish city gal, but the second response tends to give people pause. And I don’t blame them. The thing that you need to know about me is that I’m not not NOT a yogi.
In fact, humour me for a moment and picture what a yogi should be: she’s thin, peaceful, radiant, and confident. And thin. Now, aside from the gender, picture the opposite: prone to anxiety, often unsure, and so not thin. The opposite of yogi? That’s me. Hi!
I began yoga in the first place because of a dubious combo: gentle peer pressure and an Internet bargain. You see, two of my dearest friends are yogis, and they invited me to join them on their Pass to Prana (a deal that allows buyers a class at participating yoga studios) adventures. I was unsure, but I was swayed by my friends’ assurance that I’d love yoga and that the Passport experience would be fun. Why not, I thought.
I learned “why not” from the moment I walked into a studio for the first time. My status as not-yogi was woefully apparently. My first class, a beginner’s workshop, was an unmitigated disaster. I was easily the worst person in the class. I couldn’t touch my toes—let alone the floor– at all, none of the poses made intuitive sense, and my body got in the way of everything. My lowest point came when, in a standing forward bend, I realized that literally everyone in the room was closer to the floor than I was. I wept quietly for the rest of the class. In short, I bloody well HATED everything about that hour-and-a-half.
Most reasonable people would have cut their losses and broken up with yoga that night. I didn’t want to go back—in fact, I resented the thought of returning to the studio–but the class was preregistered and prepaid. I was raised in the heartland, and I felt a bit ill at the thought of wasting that $80. So, I went back. In short, I stuck it out with yoga because I’m cheap.
Cheapness, however, does not explain why, nearly two years after that disastrous class, I take at least 3 yoga classes a week, why I find yoga to be essential to my mental and physical health, why I value the space that my practice has claimed in my life. I’d love to say it’s because yoga’s helped me achieve my most fantastic ass, but we’ve already determined that’s not the case.
I am indebted to my workshop teacher, who is also the studio’s
director, for my practice. She is a warm, kind person who apparently
likes a challenge, so she took me under her wing and eased me past my
initial yoga hate. She guided me to specific classes and teachers,
always sensing when I was ready to move to the next place in my
practice. Without Kathryn, I’d still loathe yoga.
Some of it has to do with the practice itself. Restorative classes introduced me to reclining baddha konasana, an opening posture that made me feel at home in my body in a most peculiar, unexpected way. This pose, as corny as it sounds, allowed me to feel what my body could do, instead of what it couldn’t (which, at the beginning, felt like damn near every other pose). My other desert island sequence is surya namaskar A. I LURVES IT: the flow, the breathing, the postures (even, I admit grudgingly, the forward bend), the completeness. Even on days when I pretty much hate every other asana, surya namaskar A makes me feel bad ass and baddha konasana makes me feel serene.
I keep going to yoga for other reasons, too: the lovely instructors, all of whom make me feel that I belong, the lovely practitioners, some of whom have become friends, and the lovely physical space of the studio itself.
I wish that I could say that one of these factors was what makes yoga work for me, but really? That’s not the truth. Even though I benefited from it, I still had an uneasy relationship with yoga. I was fond of it and admired what I saw it do for others. But I was still Other to yoga, the one thing in the room that didn’t belong.
So, why am I always on the way to the yoga studio? Because To Hell With It—that’s why.
See, I was in class one day and the instructor, a woman who defines yogi, became tangled up in her instructions. She started and stopped, wound and unwound, and then laughed. “You know, sometimes, if something’s not working, you just to have to say to Hell with it!” Everyone laughed with her, except me. I was dumbfounded. And elated.
This woman, whom other teachers seek out and embodies serenity in class? She fucked up! And it was OK! At that moment, the scales fell from my eyes, and I learned that that the truth of my practice could be summed up in those four words: To Hell With It.
To Hell With:
- feeling bad that I cannot complete the full expression of any pose.
- worrying that I’m not a real yogi.
- being ashamed that my ass isn’t fantastic.
- stewing in self doubt.
- refusing to enjoy what my body can do.
- thinking that a person shouldn’t drink a cappuccino before a yoga class.
- knowing that I don’t belong.
Most of all, To Hell With being a yogi. Since I’ve stopped trying to be one, I’ve begun to love yoga.
I don’t have time for to be a yogi, anyway. I barely have time to stop for my pre-class capp as it is.