Recently, and by that I mean this week, I have started a new yoga regime. I attend a great little studio and began my first class with some trepidation. It's been a couple of years since I have done yoga or basically any exercise practice, unless you count drinking mochas as exercise.
I wondered just how sore I would be, if I would be able to hold the postures, if I could control my breathing and most importantly, if I could survive the one hour class without passing out in the heated room.
My past experience with any type of physical exercise included a heavy dose of competition. For as long as I can remember I would try to beat out the other players, so to speak. Exercise classes would find me showing up early and staying late, I would take my spot right in the front row so I could show off because I knew the routine. I would attend daily doubles, all the while comparing my ass with the other asses. Was mine really still the biggest one in the class? Would there ever be a time I could bounce a quarter off my ass Does that even really work?
Everything in my life tends to become competitive, including yoga. Knowing this, I prepared myself for the envy I would feel when I saw the cute yoga outfits, the toned arms and flexible limbs when I arrived at class.
I took my place on my mat (in the back row this time), with my bare feet in dire need of a pedicure and waited for all the emotions to come charging over me as I observed fellow students taking their places.
I waited but they didn't come.
Instead I felt something else. I felt good.
Suddenly I don't care if my mobility doesn't match the girl's next to me. I'm OK that I fall over during Warrior 2. I'm OK if I go into Child's Pose and choose to stay there for the remainder of class. I'm OK if I lose my balance during Tree Pose and I'm OK if my back heel doesn't touch the floor during Downward-Facing Dog.
What liberation. I found myself smiling over the fact that I was CHOOSING to go at my own pace rather than trying to match the endurance of the incredibly flexible woman next to me.
In the past, I would push myself beyond what was normal. I'm finding instead of looking over at my classmates with jealousy at their stamina, fantastic posture and strong core muscles, I'm finding I'm OK with my paunchy stomach and flabby upper arms.
I'm finally enjoying being present, in the moment, embracing the now, slowing down.
The feeling of competitiveness is being replaced with gratefulness for my breath, for movement, for the chance to reflect and the opportunity to strengthen my body.
All of which I previously took for granted because I was trying be the next Jane Fonda. OK, I just totally dated myself. Jillian Michaels perhaps?
Here is the biggest thing Yoga has taught me thus far.
Please wear yoga pants that fit. I really don't care to see your bum crack as you fold down into child's pose.
Those of us who have opted for the back row really appreciate it.