Yoga is about making the uncomfortable comfortable.
I love yoga. I’ve been practicing for a long time. I’m not even really sure how long—maybe eight years? I’m being trained to teach, and will finish my certification in April.
So last night I’m with my husband and another couple. They are dear, dear friends who have been a constant, reliable, supportive part of our lives for 15 years or so. I love them. I love them and I love my husband. I want to put that out there before I really lay into them.
Yoga is about inner transformation.
We use asana, or poses, to help physically work through some of our internal, emotional stuff. In yoga, we often find ourselves in uncomfortable positions. This is on purpose. Yoga is about making the uncomfortable comfortable. Are you with me?
Because the real work in yoga begins when you are really dying in a pose. When you want to come out of the pose. When you think you can’t do it. Then, you breathe and surrender and stay—and you are transformed.
The goal is to practice these things on your mat so you can go into the world and live in that space of breathing and surrendering and staying.
Life can be uncomfortable but we cannot walk around a bundle of nerves, screaming, shouting, judging and giving up. We must leave our need to achieve and just be. This brings me back to my husband and my friends (whom I love dearly). Did I mention I love them?
They are all Type A, overachieving, super regimented, scheduled, successful, intelligent, reliable, trustworthy, loyal, aggressive, determined, goal-setting warriors.
This can be helpful, and this can be—shall we say—limiting.
Last night they told me when I teach yoga I need to make sure no one comes in late. They said they don’t ever want to hear me asking them to move their mat to make room for a few more people. They feel that they get there early, set up and get in a zone. Why should they have to move for people who are coming in late?
I tried to explain that we never know what it takes some people to get there, and just being there sometimes is half the battle. As a teacher, we want to make sure all feel welcome and encouraged.
Yeah, no. That wasn’t going over. They want to know for sure that I will never ask them to move their mat for the “late people.” Now, let me point out, they admit some of these people are just “on time,” but since they (my husband and friends) were there early, they should have dibs and should not be asked to move.
Now, this is sort of becoming funny. I break out my phone to record them because I have to admit, it’s kind of perfect. It’s a great illustration of what yoga is all about. It’s also a clear indication that these three people (whom I love dearly) need yoga.
I explained the part about being uncomfortable and working through that.
Here are some of the best quotes of the night:
“Why did this hot girl have to take off her sweats and wear boy shorts? It’s distracting. I couldn’t stop looking at her. I couldn’t focus, that’s just not right. Yeah and some girl farted next to me and it was nasty and the whole time I was thinking everyone thought I did it. I just want to be in a corner and be left alone. I don’t want to stagger my mat, I want space, I need my space.”
Imagine them all egging each other on with supportive head nods and affirmations.
I tried to explain that your mat is your island. You have your space, but they want space around them. They don’t want to make goalpost arms when they are supposed to do a full out swan dive. They don’t want to be limited.
But here’s the thing—they are limited. They are limited because they are grasping so tightly to the way they think it “must be” in order for things to be “right.”
Moving away from those limitations is yoga. This is why I practice and why I want to teach.
People come away from yoga with fewer limitations on themselves, that translates to being more accepting in the world. It’s about dropping expectations and the notion that there is one right way. Having to make goalpost arms is practice for the times when we have to adjust to different circumstances in life and how there can be beauty and grace in that adjusting and accepting.
I remember someone telling me once that savasana, corpse pose, is the most difficult pose for them. I found this to be really strange, I mean, how hard is it to lay on your back and relax? Well, for some people it’s absolute torture. They need to move. But in time, with practice they learn to surrender and are no longer limited by their “need to move.” They are transformed.
I’ll admit that someone farting next to you is not ideal and I’d recommend you don’t eat a burrito before class. I would also recommend you arrive early to find your space and unwind a little before class begins.
I’ll also admit there have been times when I have been irritated and upset by other people. I’m not saying I’m a perfect, loving, accepting person at all times. I’m not. That’s why I keep practicing yoga.
And that’s why I will always welcome anyone who wants to practice with me. It would be an honor.
We will move mats, adjust our arms and stagger the way we stand. We will accept that there is not one “right” way, and will surrender to what is. We will celebrate that we made it to our mats, and whatever is going on “out there” will not seep into our sacred space “in here.”
We will recognize the teacher and student in each of us. We will be open to grace and transformation. We will breathe together, and will say Namaste and mean it because the divine light in me recognizes and honors the divine light in you.
And on those days when we don’t mean it, when we don’t feel it, when we are mad and annoyed, on those days—we will go through the motions. We will show up, we will be uncomfortable and we will muddle through together. Because there is learning in that—there is grace in that.
Sue Bidstrup is a blogger and speaker and is currently training to be a yoga instructor. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and three kids including two teenage girls who help her figure out stuff like Twitter and Instagram. They also roll their eyes a lot. She hopes to share gratitude and grace with her writing and with her yoga. Visit her at greatbigyes.com.
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Editor: Sara McKeown & Brianna Bemel