Let me paint a picture for you:
You’re in a yoga class, the teacher can do everything with ease, you’re at the back, watching, observing, there’s another student two mats along from you following everything she can do with ease, another student in front of you – her hips and hamstrings are unbelievable free and loose, and then there’s you. “Why am I SO tight?!” “God damn my bloody hamstrings!” “How on EARTH is he/she doing that?!”
Sure does to me, I’ve been through all those thoughts many many many times, no worse than when I first started yoga teacher training, I used to think “how on earth will I teach people with hamstrings as tight as this? What do I do if my students are more flexible than me? How do I teach a pose I can’t do?”
My teacher Debbie said: “As a teacher, it is not your job to be the most flexible, or the most knowledgable even, just make sure you are the most prepared”.
But how can we prepare ourselves for the inevitable frustrations that come when practicing yoga?
Simple, let them go. You can still hear me shouting “sh*t” and “oh for f*ck’s sake” when after three minutes of mindful preparation I finally get into a pose only to fall out four seconds after (actually I think the particular one I am referring to it was 3 minutes 38 to be precise – I timed it). That’s ok, it’s human nature to let off steam, so long as when you let it off you let it go too – and don’t hold onto that feeling.
An open mind allows an open body: “Oh I can’t do headstand I’m scared of being upside down”. What happens with this sentence? You might pull a face, scrunch your nose and eyes? Perhaps you flinch a bit, pending your shoulders and arms, maybe you take a step back and your body becomes rigid at the thought? What has just happened there? A negative thought has created a negative action in the body.
Think about a pose you love, one of your favourites? For me it’s a simple pigeon pose – open me up and swallow me whole pigeon pose. The mere thought of it makes me feel relaxed, chilled happy and comforted – body and mind.
So let’s go back to our headstand comment… in stead of “Oh I can’t do headstand I’m scared of being upside down”, could we not think of it this way? “I’d like to experience what it is like to be upside down so that I can start working up towards some kind of headstand practice. I’m excited to try something new to see where my practice will take me and what I might discover about myself in the process”. Open mind, open body.
Mermaid pose… Two weeks ago I couldn’t do it. I spent one lonely evening on my mat repeatedly trying getting more and more p*ssed off that my body just wouldn’t bend that way. I gave up – never gonna happen, I thought.
Two weeks later it came up in class – I was really enjoyed my class that night – hip openers just make me sing, so when we went into the pose I wasn’t even aware that was what we were doing I was so into the flow of the class. All of a sudden I found myself doing my first Mermaid pose. I yelped out loud with joy.
I got home, got hubs to take a photo, he couldn’t have cared less – rolled his eyes and requested I be quick so he could carry on watching his show (be quick I thought – this is yoga mate!), regardless he took the photo:
Next day I thought, man let’s give this another bash, see if I can do it on day two.
Day two the improvement could have been months apart – this is literally 24 hours guys!
Day three, I thought, well if I can do it sitting down, why can’t I do it standing up?
Ok so it took about a minute and a half to get there, but still, isn’t that just quite astonishing?
My point is my friends – frustrations come and go – but they never need to stay more than the moment you experienced them in. So what if you can’t do it right now, let it go, move on and embrace what you can do now – and what you can do is practice, Practice in your own way, with an open mind and open body, and most importantly an open heart that is authentic to you.