One of my goals for 2017 is to establish a more regular yoga practice (along with a more regular writing practice – so far, so good!).
I’ve been practicing yoga regularly for six years. My first yoga class was in grad school, 15 years ago. I had held the typical military sterotype of yoga that it was too “soft and squishy” of a workout, and I thought I’d be chanting instead of working up a sweat (which is my qualification of a good workout). But a friend of mine convinced me to go to a yoga class he had taken and he promised it would be a great workout.
He was right; it was an ashtanga class. For the unfamiliar, ashtanga is hindi for “ass kicking.” Just kidding, but I loved that it was a serious workout. I wasn’t intimidated by the super yogis in the class who could bend themselves in ways I didn’t think possible. Instead, I focused on what I could do that day. I began going to the ashtanga class fairly regularly, as many times as I could on my grad student budget.I loved the muscles I was starting to feel on my shoulders and abs.
Then I moved to California, got pregnant, and stopped practicing yoga. The demands of raising two small children, running a house and managing full-time jobs in tech took up all of my time and fitness fell to the side.
Fast forward eight years to 2010. I was super stressed out at work and my marriage was falling apart. I needed to do something, anything to find some inner peace. I remembered a few co-workers from a previous job who were really into bikram yoga and had recommended it. “Bikram” is hindi for “hot and smelly feet.” Just kidding, but it is conducted in a heated room, which, if not cleaned properly, can get pretty darn stinky. It’s a series of 26 poses, each done twice, first for a minute and then for 30 seconds. The whole series takes 90 minutes, and by the end, you are drenched in sweat and feeling pretty wiped. My kind of workout.
Over the past six years, I’ve improved my flexibility and strength. I progressed to power yoga, which involves inversions and balances – a new challenge for me. One pose in particular had been my nemesis for a long time: bakasana, or crow pose. It’s a balance on ones’ arms, using arm and core strength. I could put my knees on the backs of my upper arms, lean forward and lift one foot off the ground, but I was afraid to lift the other foot because I was sure I would fall forward on my face.
I spent months in class balancing on one toe, so afraid to let that toe leave the ground. See, I’ve never been able to do a pull up. I’ve never had great upper-body strength, so I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t be able to do anything that requires it. But bakasana requires not just physical strength, but mental power.
I finally got tired of not trying and one day, decided to lift up that toe. I balanced for two seconds and then my toes came back down. It was super short, but it was air time and I held the balance for those two seconds. I was elated; in all those years I’d always leave that one big toe on the floor to balance and support myself. I’d never trusted myself enough to do the full pose. I’d always think, “What if I fall on my face?” and finally I thought, “What if I DON’T fall? What if I can rock this pose and I’ve been wasting all this time doubting myself?” So I did it.
The lesson for me? I’m stronger than I realize. And who cares if I fall? I will keep trying, and get stronger, and balance longer.
Yes, sometimes I wipe out:
but I just don’t GAF about that anymore. Because I’ll get back up and try again. I know I can do it now.