So, You Must Be Really Good at Yoga
Last week in the cafeteria at Northwestern, a classmate came up to me to ask me about yoga. She had heard I was teaching a class in the park for our program, and wanted to know what led me to offer this. I filled her in that I had just spent the past month completing a 200-hour yoga teacher training, and I wanted some bodies to practice on and to give people the chance to move and unwind after sitting all day. “Oh wow, so you must be really good at yoga. You can do all those handstands and crazy poses and stuff?” she asked.
Of course, this wasn’t the first time I had been asked if I was good at yoga, and I replied like I usually do with a “Well, I’m OK. I can do a handstand against the wall, but I couldn’t even touch my toes when I started practicing a couple years ago.” It’s a qualified answer I’ve gotten used to giving, because no way could I actually call myself good at yoga. After all, I do still need that wall to do a handstand, I can’t stick my foot behind my head, and my hamstrings and hips have no interest in taking me anywhere near hanumanasana. And that’s what this whole yoga thing is about, right?
Until fairly recently, I halfway agreed with this idea. I knew I was getting the physical and emotional benefits of having a dedicated yoga practice, and I knew it was about more than the asana, but I still couldn’t help but get frustrated about the fact that it took me two years to finally kick into a handstand and that my poses weren’t advanced at all when compared to some of the pretzel shapes you see on Instagram. But Pema Chodron’s idea about edges has really been sticking with me lately. Even if I meet my edge really early on in ardha hanumanasana and live my whole life never doing hanumanasana, it doesn’t mean I’m any “worse” at yoga than someone who can slide effortlessly into a split. We’re all still getting the same benefits of the pose, some of us are just meeting that edge a little earlier than others. Being good at yoga means meeting and playing with edges. It means respecting your body enough to say “I’ve gone far enough today” and being OK with that. It means coming up against edges in life and handling it with a little more ease. So, really, that answer I’ve been giving about being just OK at yoga? Complete bullshit. Next time someone asks, here’s what I might say:
“Hell yeah I’m good at yoga. I’ve been working on this crazy pose called NotRoundingMySacrumInForwardFolds and it’s been working pretty well for me. I’ve also recently nailed FallingInHeadstandButWhoCaresAsana. My left foot falls asleep every time I meditate and my mind is usually full of thoughts about food and my to-do list, but I have been starting to get a few minutes of peace, so look out for a photo of that coming to Instagram soon. Oh, and this is way less interesting, but I’m getting a lot better at breathing through uncomfortable situations and I’m less reactive than I used to be. I feel comfortable in my skin and I like myself way more than I ever have.”
Any other questions?