It has been just over a month and a half since I started yoga.
I had known for some time that I should do this. Many years, in fact.
But I guess we can only do what we can do when we can do it. And not until then. In the meantime, I somehow became Facebook friends with a good number of the yoga teachers in town. I don’t even know how that happened. Also, in the meantime, several of my friends started doing yoga and had even taken the teacher training. And, then, my amazingly cool cousin in Michigan that I don’t know very well in person, opened her own studio and appears to be legendary in her yoga community.
In many ways, this is the story of how I had an experience I judged to be unpleasant, created an entire mythology around it and then acted upon it as if it were immutable truth.
It goes something like this:
Many years ago, myself and my co-worker Sharon Stephenson found ourselves the newbies in what seems like now must have been some kind of advanced class. I now see that it would probably be what is referred to as an “all-levels” flow yoga class.
I went twice and decided I just wasn’t “cut out” for yoga. The teacher was nice and affirmative but it was so difficult for me because, although I’ve always had a lot of strength and quite a good level of stamina, my flexibility was practically non-existent. I also felt like the fact that I have flat feet made it hard for me to balance. Of course, added to that was that I was sure people were looking at how awful I was doing all of it.
(Aside: Back then I was convinced that people cared. Since then, I’m not convinced they care at all. And even better, if they do happen to care, which I doubt, I don’t care that they care. That may, in fact, be some kind of progress on my part.)
Over time that hardened into “I’m not able to do yoga because I have flat feet.” I held onto that for many years. I said it over and over, and it became a belief. The flat feet excuse had become a familiar trope for me by that time. When I had to register for selective service, I hatched a secret plan inside my head of how I would use that to evade the draft if one were ever instituted. I had used it for years in gym class in school to get out of doing all manner of things. Even dodge ball.
Flat feet became a nice metaphor for the real reasons I avoided certain things.
What I see now was what I’m confronting in myself as I move forward with yoga presently:
Scott doesn’t like to do things he doesn’t instantly excel at. How quickly that became apparent. It accounts for my aversion to math in grade school, the reason I dropped Spanish after after a few days of class and transferred into French, and why I was absolutely miserable for the 11 months I worked in the academic technology office on my campus providing technical support for our online teaching platform (well, maybe I just didn’t like that one, period, but you get the idea).
I do have flat feet. It means I get to practice balance more. That’s all. I see now what the teachers mean when they say something to the effect of “there are as many different yoga practices in this room as there are people.” It’s not about just getting into the right pose.
It’s not about being right.
It’s more about just BEING. Period.
As Jason, a former student who has become a trusted Facebook friend said to me, when I was still contemplating yoga and told him I had to have a beginner class:
“No you don’t. All yoga classes are a beginner classes. You do what you can, stay in the present, don’t compare yourself to others or what you could or think you should be able to do.”
Ouch, point taken.
Those are exactly all the things I did when I found myself in the all-levels class in 2006. His words helped me adjust my mindset. I only have to relive the 14 year old Scott who was self-conscious in gym class if I allow myself to indulge that mindset.
I’m an adult now.
I can shift my thinking to make things better.
My thinking has a profound effect on the reality that I experience.
The beautiful thing, and frightening thing, so far is that I’m getting opportunities to confront those shadow aspects of myself that I’d often like to pretend away, what some friends of mine would characterize as “character defects buried in shallow graves.” These things have to raise their heads before they can be healed.
For the moment, I’m willing to go there.
Interestingly, just a few days after I begun this journey, I developed an aversion to coffee. Anyone who knows me knows that black coffee is like an integral part of my whole persona. Like George Burns’s cigar. I don’t miss it and I don’t crave it. I’m not exactly sure what happened but I’m going with it.
My skin is better. I don’t feel compelled to have a nap in the late afternoon. I feel better overall and I think I’m feeling more connected.
Who knows what can happen if I keep doing this? I might get more flexible and that’s certainly a goal, but even if that doesn’t happen, I think this is going to help me get more real, be more at ease and most importantly just plain BE period.
And so I leave you with…