It was almost one year ago that my sister took me (begrudgingly) to my first yoga class in Berkeley. Mine is not a story of yoga love at first pose. Much to my sister’s disappointment, yoga did not save my life, it did not help me to accept myself, find peace, or become more flexible. My first yoga class was a far cry from a life changing experience. Mostly, it was just a very painful and sweaty experience and I didn’t understand why any one would subject themselves to that on a regular basis.
Yet here I am one year later, going to class every day, doing sun salutations on my porch when I’m bored, and combing through the yoga section of the library flipping through books of impossibly flexible people. Looking back I can see why I was not incredibly drawn to the practice of Yoga right off the bat. My first class was full of people who had been practicing for years. I mean I was in Berkeley for crying out loud, that’s like up there with India in terms of devoted Yoginis. I was hyper sensitive to the 20 something next to me with her Lululemon’s and rippling arm muscles who looked like she came vinyasa-ing out of the womb, and here I was barely able to touch my toes. To say I felt out of place would be an understatement. And with all that self-conscious energy flowing through me it was hard not to think about windmill kicking the instructor in the head for making us hold downward dog for minutes at a time. By the end of class I was too pent up and twitchy to even enjoy Savasana.
I decided to give Yoga another shot when I came home from my first year of college. The real epiphany (if you want to call it that) came on the first day of class when I realized that it did not matter. It did not matter one drop if I couldn’t touch my toes. My hamstrings are tight, my heels don’t touch the floor in downward dog, I nearly fall on my face in standing warrior, and I’ve stopped wondering if I’ll ever lift my feet off the ground in crow pose. It really doesn’t matter. There are things that matter in yoga, but mastering every pose is not one of them.
Once I figured that out it was not hard to fall face first into a love affair with yoga. I stopped looking around at the people in their headstands and back bends. They are on a different journey than me, fighting their own obstacles so it’s okay if I can’t do some things that they can. Instead I focused on myself and the internal chatter that probed me to compare myself to others, and I told it to shut its mouth so I could get back to my practice.
Yoga is not about how bendy you are, yoga is about hitting your mat consistently and taking on your own challenges. It’s about trying new things, even if they scare the bejeezus out of you, but mostly it’s about letting go of every expectation, every fear, and every insecurity. Slowly I am learning, trying new things, and taking on this new passion with an open mind and an open heart.