How clearly I remember going through these stages when I started. It’s been 12 years now and I still consider myself a beginner. Since then I had many friends report the same thoughts and I heard many students say these sentences as well. I’m happy to share about my process and I hope my story make you smile. Perhaps you just need to hear: you are not alone.
1. Compare. "Here I come, walking into a Yoga class. I have a certain image of myself, based on my history of activities and body awareness. Perhaps I’m an athlete. Or a dander. Or a mom returning to motion after giving birth. I might have chronic back pain and I hope some pain relief. We all come with a story. The class starts and I see a whole bunch of other people, some look like me, some not at all… why is that 60 year old lady so bendy? Why is this 12 year old boy so disciplined? How come I can not do half of what is happening here? Oh lord! I should look like that… I should be more calm! I should breathe deeper!
Who can relate to this train of thoughts? I can for sure. I remember them.
Yoga is a diagnostic tool.
2. Compete. A few more classes later. "Now I know what is awaiting of me on that “torture carpet of a 2 feet by 6 feet” some people call Yoga mat. Here I come world! Check me out! Will anyone stop me and my determination? Never! Look at me now, you bendy man of 65!!! Who said I can’t make myself into a pretzel? I will show you all!!! Perhaps tomorrow I will wear my superman yoga top too…"
Here is some news for my competing old self: No-one in your Yoga class cares about your performance. They are all busy thinking the same things you are. Plus, stop the pushing. You might hurt yourself.
3. Judge. "OK, I get it. You are busy stretching, breathing, surviving, focusing, blah blah… I should do the same. But wait a minute. If it’s not a team sport why are we doing this together? If there are no scores, prizes and handshakes at the end why does it matter if I even show up? I guess people around me are just selfish, self absorbed? Am I selfish for taking time away from my kids? Perhaps this teacher doesn't do her/his job well enough? Should we not ALL be better by now? How long is this going to take? I bet Yoga is not even for me… they keep getting better, I’am not :(
Judgements and labels are obstacles of your own improvement. Leave them at home or outside with your shoes. Here is a new mantra instead: Today, I am perfect. Just for stepping on my mat. Let me see what happens.
4. High expectations.
"In the world of quick fix fitness programs and diet pills, why the hell is this thing called Yoga takes years to master? I’ve been practicing for 4, 5, 6 years now… Still I have some pain? Still my digestive system needs help? Still I’m not a perfect being floating on this magic carpet? Why can I not keep a regular schedule for my practice? Here I come… I will practice for 60 days in a row..and then… nothing :( "
Hear me out old friend: You are still a beginner. (Might stay that way for this whole life). It’s OK. Get your calendar, schedule your classes and show up. Make your plan sustainable, easier then you like. Keep showing up. One class at a time. The rest is just the matter of time.
5. Hold our breath.
We hold our breath for something great to arrive. We hold our breath to process the pressure of the world. We are just trying to survive. We don't breathe when we are confused, sad or anxious. We hold our breath literally and figuratively.
This should be listed as mistake #1, but I left it to the end. If I had a magic wand to turn my own voice into a whisper and send it back in time for myself, this is what the voice would say: "Are you breathing right now dear one?”
On this journey I am with you and therefore I am grateful.
Campbell River BC Canada
June 5. 2017
“I believe in our ability to live an amazing life. Our choices shape our schedule, our body, our destiny. Choose well and enjoy the ride. "