Yesterday in yoga class I discovered something new about myself. I used to go into practice knowing my limitations – or so I thought. I have been practicing yoga on and off since I was 19. Boys and school would oftentimes get in the way and instead of going to yoga to clear my head, I’d end up staying home too stressed out to barely move or think.
Those days are luckily over. When I feel shitty, I yoga it out. When I feel good, I yoga it out. When I’m sleepy, I yoga it out. You get the picture. I yoga it out no matter what and I always feel fantastic after (and quite sore for the time being!! But that shall pass!).
I’ve recently started going back to this yoga studio in Mission I’d go to three years ago when I used to live in the area. It felt weird going back there. It brought back some memories. In fact, the last time I was in that studio, I threw up after a too intense practice I forced upon my then frail body. It wasn’t pretty… Fortunately, the puking happened in the privacy of my apartment. Following that incident, I got distracted…. I ended up in Vietnam in May and later in France to see family in the summer. Then everything became a blur. For some reason, I had given up on yoga and my abilities to keep a religious practice going. I would attend a few classes at my gym and at my school but I did not have the same motivation and positive frame of mind. Being back at the studio is a big step for me. My first class was an Ashtanga class I attended with a friend of mine. It was super fast-paced and intense on the body. Clearly, both my friend and myself weren’t ready for such a class. I left the class a little depleated but decided I wouldn’t give up so quickly this time around and that I wouldn’t get memories of the past get in my way. It’s only been a week and a half and I have been back at the studio several times already. I enjoy the serenity of the waiting area, the sound of the water against the wall, the tea selection with its kettle waiting in the left corner for us to sip on. I have a lot of respect for the discipline and the hardwork put into each practice by each and everyone at the studio including its dedicated teachers. I accept the challenge of the overcrowdedness of the studio I am not used to. At first, it was hard to find my centre and “space” within the packed studio (yes, you literally have someone’s ass in your face when you go for downward dog) but I’ve slowly learned to accept it as a challenge to not be bothered by it and to feel centered, whole and perhaps even connected to others no matter how close others are to my “space”.
Moreover, there’s nothing like walking into a quiet studio before a class. That quietness is so strong and powerful. Each and everyone of us, unfolding our mats unto the warm floor, are preparing ourselves for practice with the power of silence and that inward turning of our gaze. It is much better than walking into a studio where three yoga moms are gossiping out the latest dish – in my opinion at least!
Yesterday blew my mind. We were going for a backward bending of the neck during the first phase of a sun salutation when your arms are high up above your head and your eyes are looking at your hands. In my head I thought, “there’s no way I will be able to crane my neck all the way back”. My first try was painful. I was too afraid to let my head fall backwards. “If the neck is too tense, shrug your shoulders,” said the teacher to the class. On my second try, I gave shrugging my shoulders a try and to my surprise, it did release some tension in my neck, allowing my head to go further back than usual. On my third try, I shrugged my shoulders once again but this time around I took a leap of faith and let go of my resisting and stubborn head. I just let go, and there I was, with my head further than ever. And it didn’t even hurt because I was able to simply let go of my fears, my judgements and the limitations I was putting on my own body. It’s incredible what letting go and simply believing in yourself can do. That day was a revelation for me. I am super grateful for what that practice taught me about myself and what I feel I can now accomplish in life. Ever since, nothing seems too big or too small and that’s a huge step forward for me.