A beginner… AGAIN. This morning, as I enter the heated room for a bit of powerful yoga practice, I find that I am not as at home as I used to be. The faces are familiar but the names escape me. Our instructor, an experienced yogi whom I’ve practiced beside a time or two, is new to me as a teacher. His practice is fierce; I expect his class will be the same.
Right off the bat, I tell him about my back, the return of my left sided sciatica, complicated by a healing broken toe on my right foot. It’s an interesting challenge to have but “I’ll modify as needed”, I say. Then I settle in on my mat and try to stay off the self bashing for making excuses before the first pose of the day.
I am a beginner, I tell myself. I leave my ego at the door and practice compassion and self awareness on my mat in a quest to find my yoga. “We don’t ‘do’ yoga”, he says, “we find it.”
Class begins in sukhasana (easy seated pose), a seated position which makes me aware of the asymmetry of my spine due to a mild scoliosis and crazy tightening of my left hamstring and gluteal muscles. I close my eyes and see my spine lengthening up towards the heavens (even if it is not actually doing so). I watch the breaths make their way inside and move deep within (taking me along with them). I acknowledge the tightness, the muscle whimpering and silent cries for help and imagine the muscles loosening, and let the pain dissipate. Then we forward fold. The process starts over…and over… and over.
Soon, class is powered up to full tilt. Virabhadrasana I (warrior I), reverse, open to Virabhadrasana II (warrior II), reverse, straighten front leg, reach forward into Trickonasana (triangle), back to reverse Virabhadrasana II, forward to Utthita Parsvokonasana (extended side angle pose) with an interesting variation which further challenged the oblique muscles… REPEAT with slight variation to deepen the challenge and demand more strength and focus from us yogis.
The sweat rolls down my body, falls into my eyes, and runs down my nose and onto my mat. My muscles shake and I do my best to find my breath again when I notice I am holding on. I fall out, especially when we arrive at the standing poses requiring I find my balance on my right leg such as Garudasana (eagle), Vrksasana (tree pose), and Virabhadrasana III (warrior III). Once again, I turn to my breath as the self bashing starts up. Just breathe, I say to myself, it’ll be over in a minute. Or two, or three… or FOREVER. Ugh!
Before long, I am lying flat on my back in Savasana (corpse pose). I relax and watch as the judgment of being a beginner again melts away. Here, I find yoga and enjoyment in just being me. I am, I say to myself. I am.
Then, I smile appears in my face. It’s not part of the practice. Or is it? I leave the studio, and take my yoga with me. I am grateful for muddling through the painful, and difficult moments (on the mat and in life) in order to find this place, this smile, and the contentment for just being me. I am.