On the Plus Side, I’m Still Crap at Yoga.
Which is good, because it means I have to keep doing it.
It is also rather humbling, because I have been practicing for five years and teaching for four years and six months. I am better than teaching yoga than I am at doing yoga—and why I say that I am not implying that I am a fantastic instructor who knows all the sanskrit names of poses and can stand on her head. No, I mean that when I am teaching yoga I am more present than when I am doing it.
Take for example, the (fabulously instructed) Astanga class I went to today. I spent the first ten minutes—when we were supposed to be sitting and breathing with inner reflection—mithering an ingrowing toenail. (Mine. I am restrained enough not to pick at other people feet in yoga at least.) Then I spent all the 250 sun salutations thinking about how annoying my necklace was (because it hit me in the face when I bent over) but not wanting to stop and take it off. Then, I was thinking about the marketing piece that I have to write for work all through the static poses.
After that, I spent at least ten minutes trying to think up a valid excuse to leave class so that I could go and get on with said marketing article which I was now stressing about. Savasana (the part where you do nothing on your back at the end of class) I actually wrote that marketing piece in my head. Then I got cross with myself for doing so.
Trouble is, my body can do all the poses to the extent that nobody looks at me in class and knows how crap I am at yoga. As usual, I came out of the studio today in the full knowledge that I had just done yet another yoga practice in my head rather than in my body.
When I first ever started yoga, things happened fast and the changes were very noticeable. That’s because when I first stepped onto a yoga mat my body and mind were so far apart that anything that pushed them remotely in the same direction was a revelation. My mind was somewhere down in hell and yoga was like an escalator projecting it into the mud that my poor body was grappling in. Yeah, my body was in mud, and it took a lot of classes to squelch my way over to the soggy grass verge.
Then, after the honeymoon year when everything was new and exciting, my yoga practice seeped into crap. Don’t get me wrong, my mind and body are able to reside on the same planet these days, and I will still attest that yoga saved my life, but despite five years of practice, I still so not think that I really “get” it.
I still don’t get what it is to feel my body in a posture. When I do yoga poses, I am putting my body in a shape like I’d cram a pillow into a pillowcase rather than letting it make the shape it wants to.
I still don’t know what my body feels about a posture. All I know is if my mind is pissed off with it or not because it is not doing it right. Sometimes it is doing it right, and then I feel proud of it—but I am not sure that pride is necessarily something that I need any more of.
I still have never got through a yoga class without thinking about work.
I still have never got through a yoga class without wanting to leave and go do some work, cleaning, walk the dog, or anything that my mind is telling me would be a more productive use of my time. Yet, when I teach yoga, I am focused, I am present, and I come out of class having not thought about anything other than my students for an entire hour.
Teaching is one thing; practicing is quite another.
If focus, presence and acceptance are on the scale, I am undoubtedly the worst practitioner in the room. Possibly in the whole world.
It bothers me when people assume that just because I can bully myself into most yoga poses that I am any good at it. It is hard to set an internal bar when everything and everyone so easily focuses on and congratulates the external. I wish there was a measure for the internal, or an instructor who could tell me off when my mind wanders.
It’s a good job I am still crap at yoga; I’d better keep practicing.