I took a vinyasa class this evening with a teacher whom I had never previously met. She was tough in the best way and the class was challenging. It pushed me beyond my comfort zone and made my limitations plain as day, particularly the stiffness in my legs and the inflexibility of my pelvis. I did not have enough strength to lift my hips high enough (or correctly) to do a standing bridge (even with help) and I needed help in performing the standing shoulder bridge. My teacher graciously corrected and helped me, and held on to my feet and legs to guide me into the posture I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. That was when I began to cry.
When we melted back down into a supine pose to relax and finish the class, she gently touched my scalp and hair to soothe me even though I continued to cry. I felt embarrassed and I didn’t want to bring attention to myself, but I had a ‘why did this have to happen to me’ moment. I cried through to the end of class and then told my teacher – with as much composure and dignity as I could – that I had been working to get better for six years and that, sometimes, I just didn’t know what else I could possibly do to get better. She said it was the sign of a good class if I could open myself up enough to share what I had gone through.
I’m not discouraged, angry, or deterred from the practice of yoga. I understood going into this that it would be hard and that I would have some really relaxing classes and some really tough classes. The process of practicing yoga is not a linear progression in ability and it’s not a matter of endgame. It’s a process that goes up and down and backwards and forwards and sideways and around again.
I had another bout of crying about half an hour after class ended and – though I am embarrassed – I knew I needed it. I have decided to invest in some private yoga therapy and address some poses that are difficult for me to see if my teacher can challenge me enough to overcome the fear that prevents me from working through them. It doesn’t mean that yoga therapy won’t be hard – because it will be – but I think it will help me figure out how to best do the poses that are the hardest for me so that I can make progress with them and get the health benefits of them (even when I can’t do them to their full extent).
I will still have hard yoga classes. I will still have hard yoga classes when I have practiced it consistently for several years. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with me. It doesn’t mean that I have not made physical progress and that I can’t continue making progress. It just hurts in the moment, and I feel it’s important to acknowledge that.