Even after 15 years of practicing yoga, there are still moments in the first few minutes of class I’d rather be anyplace else.
My body resists the poses, even my favorites. My mind hurtles to the things I should be doing instead: reading, cleaning, organizing the tangle of paperwork on my desk.
Usually, after a few sun salutations, the feeling burns off. But sometimes it doesn’t, and I find the class ending before it ever really began.
About a month ago, during a session when my resistance was particularly high, the yoga teacher said:
“Think of something that’s happening right now.”
So in the middle of a twisted lunge, I thought about my breath. I told myself there was nothing I needed to do but inhale and exhale. I didn’t need to lunge deeper or twist further or make the pose pretty. The only requirement, in that moment, was to take a few good breaths.
When the next pose came, I breathed. When thoughts about chores surfaced, I breathed. When we did my least favorite asanas, like wheel and camel, I told myself to let go of what was supposed to happen and just be there for the brevity of the moment, breathing.
My resistance loosened. I focused on where I was instead of what was going to happen next. The shift salvaged my practice. Lately, it’s helping off the mat too.
Most of my life, I’ve tried to live up to expectations: those from other people but mostly those I put upon myself. As a planner and a worrier, I’ve convinced myself that I have to be a perfect mother to my 10-year-old daughter. I need to be a good wife and a good friend. I’ve got to be pretty, smart and strong, and I need to have a great job and win awards. If I don’t do all this, if I fall short, people will see I’m a fraud. They’ll stop loving me.
I’ve taken a giant leap of faith: I left my job as an adjunct professor to be a full-time writer. My mind, of course, is resisting. It skips to all the things I should be doing instead.
“Who do you think you are?” it asks.
You need a regular job with a regular paycheck. Something stable. Something certain.
Knowing what comes next has always made me feel safe and prepared, but right now there’s a lot I don’t know.
Will anyone want to read what I write?
Will there be steady pay?
What if the words don’t come?
I’m tempted to find new commitments, to line up obligations that will prove my worth and show everyone how lovable and important I am. That would be easy enough to do. Employers are already calling.
Sometimes at the beginning of yoga class, the teacher will ask students to set an intention, a place to focus the mind or an energetic goal to move toward. It might be balance, patience or flexibility. It might be self-awareness or compassion.
But I want 2017 to be different.
I want this to be the year of no intentions, no expectations. I want a year of just breathing, of not knowing, of letting the path ahead twist and bend without planning for it.
I want a year of focusing on what’s happening right now, not what should be or could be happening. A year for finding grace in falling short.
So here’s to accepting the unknown, of finding comfort in the uncomfortable. This year, I will write, love my family and let the universe take care of the rest.
Author: Wendy Fontain
Image: courtesy of Yoga Bliss Photo
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock