What I’m Learning By Practicing Yoga
I’m not actually going to give you a tutorial on how to do tree pose. For that you should consult one of my little first graders. He drew that adorable picture and also wrote step by step instructions on how to complete it.
I just officially began learning yoga a few months ago. It was actually my first graders who gave me the push I needed to really get into it. I’ve been interested in yoga for a bit and I will admit that I’ve had a yoga mat and blocks and a strap and maybe a DVD or two for quite a while. 5+ years would be my rough estimate. Maybe I used them thrice in that time. (Yikes! Embarrassed face.) But this year my students are learning some yoga at school, so I was inspired to learn a little bit more than they are. (Are you smarter than a first grader?) I had been worried that I wouldn’t know enough to take a class, which is silly, I know, but true. So I finally joined a little beginner class at a nice studio nearby. I have a wonderfully knowledgeable teacher and sometimes no one else shows up to class and then I get a private lesson. I thought I’d share just a few little tid-bits out of the many things I’m beginning to learn and think about as I do my poses. Spoiler alert — It’s not all about the physical poses.
The first happened one Sunday when my friend invited me to join her at a different yoga class. I was a little nervous about venturing out of my beginner level, but I figured that yoga people are supposed to be all peace and nice, right? So I went. It was a lot more crowded than my usual group and slightly cut-throat about mat placement, but once everyone was settled and the lights were dim, it did feel like peace and nice. There was even nature-y sound music in the background. I sweat a lot more than usual and a few portions were beyond my beginner ability, but there was a sweet little yogi lesson that I’ve been thinking about in every yoga class since, and many times off my mat too. Once we had gotten into a pose (I can’t remember the name of it, but it didn’t feel so hot to me), the teacher said something to this effect, “If you’re uncomfortable, try not to get out of the pose as fast as possible, instead, see what you can do to get a little more comfortable in your discomfort.” She suggested that we maybe lean on a block or bend a knee. And, oh, yeah…BREATHE!! I kept thinking about that as I finished the class and it was really helpful. I felt like I didn’t have to resort to giving up on some poses that were a stretch for me, I could just maybe change a little bit or take a few breaths and then the uncomfortable didn’t feel so bad.
Right around this same time, I read a great quote shared online by another yogi who writes at a site called “The Spiritual Spoon.” I highly recommend you check her page out if you’re into yoga, wellness and/or spirituality. She writes and shares some really wonderful and inspiring words. The quote she shared said, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” That feels kind of overwhelming at first. I mean, everything I do is a lot of things. Is that the point, though? Hmmmm… Anyway, I end up thinking of this quote often before yoga class and many times during it. Before it because there can be times when something happens that makes me think I might skip class. I have a super busy day or my friends have other plans and can’t go with me and I think about maybe just staying home instead. But if the way I approach yoga class is the way I approach everything, what else am I going to skip out on? So I go. And inevitably during each class there’s at least one pose that feels a bit uncomfortable for me. I remember my first yogi lesson and try not to get out of the discomfort ASAP and when I hold the pose without toppling (or crying!), I think, what other discomforts can I make it through?
Just this past week, the teacher was showing me a pose and as she was demonstrating she actually said, “I think you can do this.” But guess what…I couldn’t. We tried to modify; she tried to support me. It wasn’t happening. I felt like I had zero control over my leg. (Who’s leg is that?!) I just couldn’t do it. After a few tries she said, “Well, here’s your practice.” I love that yoga is often called a practice, like every time doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as we’re trying. It’s something we work on. We do it over and over again and try to improve. I can keep trying to improve. So, if that’s the way I’m trying to do yoga, that’s the way I’m going to try to do everything, even when it’s uncomfortable.