I consider myself a yogi. It’s a loose title, very much unlike the sleek black pants that seem to feel tighter and tighter each year. But through various waves of commitment and zeal I have practiced yoga for about 14 years. It’s been at times my exercise, therapy, church, rehabilitation…and at my worst, yoga has been my measuring.
In my early twenties I measured how I compared to the other participants in the room. Could I hold the pose longer than her? Why was she so much better than me? Who looks better in the mirror? Why am I sweating so much more than everyone else? Who does she think she is? Lululemon leggings, what is she, rich? Must be nice. Was anyone else able to hold crow as long? Where do I rank in this room of bending and stretching competitors?
The juxtaposition of the carefully crafted tranquil environment and my persistent inner turmoil sears memories of yoga in the early years. In the beginning, when life was without much responsibility or depth, my practice was in vain and vanity rather than the centering I so desperately needed. Yes, I was getting a good workout and stretch, but I was also constantly comparing myself to others. It was judgemental, ineffective, and the opposite of peace pursuing. I was hardest on myself, constantly critiquing every way I fell short. I think back on those hours in the studio and cringe.
And then I became a mom. Twice. It was after both the unmedicated, natural birth and planned c-section that yoga once again entered my life. I tiptoed back into exercise with trepidation. How could I exercise looking like this? When feeling so weak? I was embarrassed to be in a studio at first, so I started at home with youtube videos. It was almost a year after my second son was born that I walked back into a public yoga class.
The shift was immediate. I was a different person entirely from the woman who used to frequent this place. And it wasn’t just motherhood that changed me, but rather a mix of maturity and confidence and inner peace slowly becoming restored through my walk with God. I was there to treat my mind and body, no matter where I ‘ranked’ among the fellow yogis.
The experience was ethereal. It was unreal how much more enjoyable the class was when I took my attention away from others, away from myself and just melted into the mat. Each stretch going deeper, each victory private, each stumble humorous. We were all there to better ourselves, and I was refusing to think any negative thoughts about myself or those around me. And when the instructor slowly invited us to final savasana, I let out an om that carried away years of comparing, shame, and judgement.
Is there an area of your life that reveals a broken or hurting side of you? I encourage you to reflect your intentions, and how your life can be improved with a shift in focus. Breathe in self love, breathe out doubt. Once more, breathe in strength, breathe out fragility. Namaste.