Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why I (don't) Suck at Yoga

I hate yoga. I really do. I had taken so many yoga classes. I spent hours, days, months, practicing. But it was never enough. My body, my joints, they get to a point of flexibility and no further. Even as a child, I was never very flexible, no matter how many gymnastics classes I took. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I SUCK AT YOGA. So I stopped doing it.

Last year I was staying at an artist retreat where a couple people would do yoga every morning at dawn, and I would cook breakfast and, well, not do yoga. One of the guys asked me why I never did yoga with them.

"Oh," I said. "I suck at yoga."

He laughed. "How can you suck at yoga? That's not even possible."

"Believe me, it totally is."

"No," he replied. "Yoga is for YOU. You're as good as you are. It doesn't matter whether you can stick the poses, or if you can't get into some of them at all. Yoga is YOUR practice. Not what someone else thinks it should be."

I was stunned. He was right, of course. Hearing my instructors say that my lack of flexibility was a sign that I didn't care enough about my body to take care of it was their issue, not mine. Listening to someone tell me that my inability to get into a pose was a sign of emotional blockages (as opposed to the spinal injury -- that I told her about -- that I sustained at the age of 15) was irrelevant to my ability to at least try it.

So I did it. I did yoga every morning, with a small group of people. We didn't talk, no one instructed, no one commented on anyone's abilities or lack thereof. And it was great. I improved. Freed from the critical commentary, I started to enjoy the process of testing my limits and pushing past them. I didn't suck. It was great. 

I'm still no yoga master. I struggle with poses that even beginners find easy. But it no longer matters. This was put to the test last week, when I took an actual yoga class again for the first time in years. As we moved through the poses, I heard the instructor start with, "Now really sink into your pelvis, feel your sit-bones firmly on the ground and arch you lower back. If you can't arch your lower back, that's because you are giving in to old age! If you had taken care of your body, you would be able to do this just like me." 

I tuned him out. Because I don't suck at yoga. I'm just as good as I am. And that's fine with me.

PS - Yes, I know that not all yoga instructors are like that. Most of mine were. I treasure the ones that weren't. 

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