A few things you should know before we get on our mats…
1. I’m not very bendy. You know all those amazing poses you see in Yoga Journal? All the cool arm balances where you have to turn the page upside down to figure out which leg is which? I can’t do any of them. I wasn’t a dancer or a gymnast in my younger days, I rode horses for 25 years and didn’t stretch. I started yoga when I was 35 and living with chronic pain. I had fallen when I was pregnant and I thought I’d never walk without pain again. I still have a weird hip, a dodgy shoulder and I stand a bit squinty.
2. I’m not always nice. Sometimes I shout at my kids. Sometimes I shout at my husband. Sometimes I have to leave the house and go for a scream in the car till I feel calm enough to go back. I have also broken several plates during my married life and not in a joyful, Greek way. Sometimes I just can’t cope with one more f*cking question.
3. Oh yeah, that’s number three, I say f*ck. I say it quite a lot, actually. I’m Scottish, it’s what we do. I also used to smoke and drink. Scottish! Stereotypes and low life expectancies don’t generally happen by accident. I also listen to Jay-Z and can do an ok rap-a-long with 99 Problems. You will never hear me do this.
4. I’m my harshest critic. When people say nice things about me I’m always surprised because the voice I hear most often, my own, thinks I’m a douche.
5. I hate yoga. At least I do for part of every class I take. There is always a point where I wonder w.t.f. I was thinking coming to ‘yoga torture’ when there’s tea and chocolate in the world. I find it difficult to get to the mat and to the meditation cushion for reasons of practicality and procrastination. I’d love to be able to say that I get up at 5 a.m. every day to enjoy the sun rise and alone time with my spirit but I don’t.
Wow, I really suck! That’s five good reasons to never sign up for my class, but in the interests of balanced reporting, here are five reasons why maybe I’m not so bad.
1. I’m not very bendy. I get you, unless you are one of those super bendy dancer types. I saw myself as broken and I thought I’d stay broken forever but with patient practice the chronic pain is gone. There are occasional flare-ups but I know now how healing yoga can be and I have confidence that these small challenges will soon disappear. I now see myself as whole and healthy and that’s the way I see you too.
2. I’m not always nice. I’m a human being, chances are that you are too. (If you’re always nice maybe you can teach us all how to do that.) But, the seething resentments of the old days are gone. There isn’t the depth of unhappiness and despair that I used to feel. That sense of being overwhelmed with no way out. I am so much happier now that I have yoga and mindfulness practices. My relationships are changed for the better, I’m quicker to apologize and I’m more likely to see anger coming. Sometimes I’ll even do something about it. It’s a constant learning experience but every day is filled with opportunities to practice.
3. I say f*ck. Maybe you do too, even if it’s only under your breath. (Go on, let it out once in a while. Didn’t you see The King’s Speech?) Don’t you do ‘un-yogic’ things? Or are you ‘magazine-feature-perfect’ 24/7? Are you sure? (If so, you are definitely teaching the class.) Surely we all do some things that we’d rather not hold up to too much scrutiny? Maybe it’s your coffee intake. Maybe it’s your musical choices. Maybe it’s your love of celebrity culture. It’s ok, I’m not here to judge, I’m too busy working on my own sh*t. (I also say sh*t.)
4. I’m my harshest critic. Most of us are. You’re probably like me, sitting on your mat wishing you could ‘reach further’, ‘be stronger’, ‘be able to do it like that freaky gymnast chick over there’. I hear you and I’m here to remind you that you are perfect as you are. I figure that if I say it often enough, I’ll believe it too.
5. I hate yoga. This is usually the point in the class right before I have a breakthrough and remember why I love it. When I’ve learned to bear with something, when I’ve found out something new about my mind or my body. Something that I can take off this safe mat and apply in the, much scarier, real world. That’s what makes it worthwhile practicing, that’s where the joy and the learning is. I accept that you’ll hate yoga and me, if I’m your teacher, for at least some of your time on the mat. But, I also know that you might learn something new about yourself today and maybe it will be something transforming. Something that will cause a shift in your thinking, a fresh perspective, a new view of yourself that frees you from fear. “If I can hold this plank for two more breaths I can do anything.” That’s why we’re here, it’s not really just about stretching, is it?
Chat to your own yoga teacher next time you get the chance. Maybe you’ll find out that they’re human too, just like you and just like me.
Edited by Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor.