*Warning: some well-deserved cursing ahead!
“If at any point throughout the class you need to return to child’s pose, you should feel free to take it. This is your journey.”
David’s unique accent, an amalgam of central New Zealand sprinkled with Californian coast, a dash of gentle yoga teacher, and a hint of sternness brought on by the structure of Bikram yoga, fades for a moment as he stresses particular importance on the individuality of practice.
He looks right at me, his soft but piercing blue eyes somehow finding mine hiding in the back corner of the room.
I scoff at the notion that I’d need child’s pose.
It has child in the name.
Let me take you back a few years.
I’m in the small, quaint, and incredibly “I wish I was this cool one day” carriage house of my undergraduate mentor. I don’t know what she saw in me. I slinked into her theory class in baggy sweats meant to hide the person underneath—a tactic merely embodied by the fabric on my body but woven throughout the whole of my being—and sat in the back row.
I hadn’t read the book and had skipped the first two classes because of my general apathy toward life and success. Life was easier that way.
I generally avoided new experiences through a carefully constructed facade of casual but cool dismissal: “No thanks, I’m good,” as if I were too good for whatever it was. Or a sneering judgment layered with passive-aggressive assaults on innocent onlookers meant to articulate my finer tastes: “You’re doing what?! I’ll pass, I definitely have something more important, and cooler, to be doing.” Life was easier that way.
Until it wasn’t. Years of pretending to not care eventually catches up.
Fast forward a year or so, where I’ll gloss over the gritty and incredibly unnecessary details of her embarrassing me in front of multiple classes (I’m a glutton for punishment), and we’re on the landing of her cottage house, just out of the reach of the whimsical and rustic spiral staircase that whisks you upwards, almost like you’re gliding on its steps.
She challenged me to do yoga.
“Just a few minutes. You workout. Right?”
She coyly offered these words through a smile. I’d been trapped, as it were, by my overzealous and too-big-for-my-own-damn-good mouth.
“It’s only yoga. How hard could it be?” I said, not knowing that “only yoga” could be hard as hell.
And she was hellbent on showing me.
Ten minutes later, we’d made it through no more than three poses before I was on the ground begging for mercy.
Foot, meet mouth. I’m not sure what the word for that pose is in Sanskrit, but there damn well should be one. It’s one of the first poses you learn on your yogic journey: foot in mouth.
“Welcome, child. I will show you the way, but first, you must eat your words.”
Eat them I did, and they tasted of hubris, denial, and over-confidence. I needed to drink from the Tree of Life and its bounty of humility, self-love, and interconnectivity. Little did I know…
Back to David’s voice.
As the heat is rising to temperatures around “am I in hell, or just Arizona?” I’m still scoffing at the fact that I’d need anything called child’s pose.
Fifteen minutes into the class, before we’ve made it past “limbering up,” all electrolytes have left my body and collected in a shallow pool of sweat anyone within a three foot radius is subject to unwittingly stepping into. I’m trapped inside my head, where my internal dialogue is a cocktail of self-pity and outwardly projected rage, mixed with a serious disdain for all things mindfulness and Deepak Chopra.
“This mindfulness shit sucks. Fucking Chopra!”
I am on the verge of passing out. I need to escape. I need a break. I need…what was it? Oh, that’s right.
*ignite internal dialogue*
“You don’t need it. Push. You can do this! You need to push harder. Push through. Don’t let them see you fall.”
And in that moment, David’s voice breaks through the mental chatter: this is your practice.
My eyes scan the room. I am met not by glares, but complete obliviousness to my existence. Everyone is working through, to put it poetically, their own shit. We move through piles and piles and piles of our own shit—heaped on us by our society, the media and their mass-marketed fecal matter makers, loved ones, friends, family, but mostly, ourselves. It looks like expectations, judgments, self-hatred, loathing, and comfort-seeking behaviors like buying new clothing, consumption of food and alcohol. And, when you use it to fill the holes inside you, it feels a whole lot like shit.
At this point in life, my apathy had swelled to the point where I no longer cared about anything. Underneath it all, there was a child, innocent and long-ignored, begging for love and attention.
Strike a pose.
There comes a point where we can no longer find satisfaction in the things we used to—we find ourselves alone at the bar, or the casual flings no longer fill whatever holes we have (no pun intended). We long for meaning, purpose, and connection. We wish to be alive rather than to live. And moving through that shit is hard. Unlearning years of bullshit and relearning how to connect authentically and vulnerably is hard, terrifying, difficult work.
And here’s the thing I didn’t learn from those picture-perfect poses I’d seen on Instagram: sometimes, the hardest thing to do isn’t to push through, but to surrender. To move inward. To admit to ourselves that this is where we’re at on our journey and the act of showing up is, in itself, enough.
Yoga can be beautiful, but it is also really ugly. Sometimes, we end up in child’s pose kissing not just our mats, but own self-loathing, inability to quiet the mind, and hatred of Deepak Chopra, all manifesting in a pool of sweat our lips are now firmly pressed into.
That’s why child’s pose was the hardest fucking pose for me—that day in David’s yoga class.
Because it meant coming to terms with those areas of myself I had allowed to guide me for so long: my arrogance, attitude, lust, desire, and resentment.
That’s why child’s pose is the hardest fucking pose for most of us.
Because it means recognizing that, sometimes, the strongest thing we can do is admit our weakness.