Being Bad at Yoga – A Lesson in Humility
Despite having dabbled in it off and on over the course of several years now, I’m really bad at yoga. To an almost embarrassing point. I can’t even touch my toes, standing or seated.
After a hiatus from both it and then all exercise for a large portion of 2014, I returned at the beginning of this year, approaching my first practice with great trepidation.
The whole experience was awful. I was severely unfit, easily exhausted and completely inflexible. I couldn’t do a decent chaturanga and I was sore for days afterwards.
It wasn’t always like this. I started yoga-ing to a serious degree way back in 2013. After a few years of riding a desk, I’d started getting concerned about the level of pain I was getting in my hips and lower back. I was a bit of a gym bunny, but not all that committed when it came to warming down properly after pumping iron or doing hardcore aerobics for an hour.
It didn’t help that I was one of those people who is just naturally inflexible. However, sometimes being incredibly stubborn does work in one’s favour. I kept at it – going around three to four times a week, schedule willing. Within a short amount of time, I started to notice a difference in my body. Things were starting to feel looser and I could touch my toes at long last!
Then one day, I melted into swan pose – for those of you unfamiliar with asanas, it involves folding your leg under you and laying your torso over it. It’s a position I’d always struggled with maintaining for long periods of time due to being lucky enough to have extremely tight hip flexors. Bit by bit, my butt muscle was beginning to loosen up, but I still had a long way to go.
Unfortunately, the man who was teaching the class was to put it nicely, a halfwit (I’m personally more inclined to call him a fuckwit). He came over at this point in the practice and pushed down heavily on my back with his hands.
TWANG! went something in my hip. He had very sweetly aggravated an injury I’d done to myself while I was going through a running phase the year before. I’d somehow managed to hurt my foot, to the point where I hadn’t been able to walk on it for a week. It came back for round two and I got to go to work on crutches and have everyone look at me bewildered when they found out I’d hurt myself by doing yoga.
“But… I thought it was supposed to be good for your body!” They’d say, aghast. They weren’t the only ones.
I never went back to that particular yoga studio and it was largely what put me off going for the majority of last year.
After another break, I’m back at it. Going to yoga is an interesting experience for me – in fact I have to label it as a social experiment at times in order to encourage myself to go in the first place. I’m generally the worst in every class – the least flexible, the one the teacher has to correct more often than anyone else. I haven’t been able to commit to as much as I’d like, so progress is slow and it can really be quite disheartening at times.
Yet, yoga is the type of exercise above all else that makes me realise that there is some truth is the saying It’s the journey, not the destination, overused by both the online fitness and travel communities alike. No, I can’t yet do an inversion, but I hold on to the time I managed to do one of my own accord three years ago. I can’t yet touch my toes, but I can feel my body loosening up with every attempt. With each chaturanga I’m gaining strength in my chest and upper arms. I even managed to achieve a few moments peace during savasanah last week, although the second I realised I’d managed to empty my mind, it filled up once more with thoughts of jubilation.
Best of all, I can feel myself becoming a calmer, more rounded individual as a result. I’m feeling less burning hatred towards the man who inflicted my original injury, my past self for giving up and all the people in my class who can do headstands. It sounds wanky – and let’s be honest, to some degree, yoga is and always will be a little wanky – but I can almost feel myself growing as a person.
That’s what I like about yoga and what’s brought me back to it, year after year. You lift a weight enough times and you’ll strengthen a muscle. However, every time you attend a yoga class, you’re flexing your mind, along with your body.
Yes, I’m bad at yoga. But when you’re at the very bottom, there is only room for improvement.
Do you practice yoga? How does it benefit you?