How a month of yoga made me question everything
If you’ve been a follower of Monday Hustle from the start, you’ll know that this is something I’ve always felt compelled to try – and being the person I am, you’re probably sitting there thinking that yoga is 100% something I need in my life (see: hyperactivity).
Sometimes, when ‘the thing’ scares ‘the metaphorical sh*t’ outta you, it never hurts to have some accountability, right – which is why, when crafting my bucket list, I decided to put ‘yoga’ under the monthly challenge heading – ie – so there was no backin’ out.
Rewind to five weeks ago when I was considering partaking in a month’s worth of yoga. My sister had asked me if I’d want to sign up and do it with her and I really didn’t. It was nothing personal. I love her, honest. I just dread yoga.
But why was the thought of doing yoga so intensely anxiety inducing for me?
First, it doesn’t fit my character. How could someone like me, energetic, hyperactive, insomnia-tic me, spare the time, get the motivation, find the zen to do yoga? What if it didn’t work and I was put off doing anything remotely relaxing from there on in? Or what if I fell in love with it and moved to Bondi to open a retreat effective before Christmas? The future was uncertain – who would I become??
My second reservation was worse, however.
How can I do yoga when I can’t even touch my toes?!
RELEVANT TANGENT – that fact surprises those who know me, as I used to be a competitive springboard diver. While my tuck was lit, my pike was abysmal and only on occasion could I find the mid-air momentum to bend my body in half and touch fingers to toes while both my upper and lower body remained straight as a plank to perform the perfect pike position. For years, I felt anxious about the inevitable limbering out stretch-sesh the end of every class. I was embarrassed to be seen to try and felt ashamed about my inability. My coach would literally sit on my back to try and use sheer force to make my body more bendy, but alas – nothing seemed to work.
I got to the point where I stopped trying and accepted the fact that I’d never be flexible. This belief impacted my feelings of capability in diving and later during my stunt performance days, and it became a big insecurity that would manifest in the form of self deprecating jokes.
In hindsight? It’s 100% from fear of flex-inadequacy that I’ve never considered yoga as high on the priority list; but now that I’ve done it – it’s clear that I could not have been more wrong about what yoga is all about – or about my ability to do it.
The universe works in mysterious ways, as on the day my sister asked about my interest (for a fourth time), my physiotherapist had just confirmed that I was yoga fit and recommended I start incorporating it into my routine for optimal Achilles recovery. Damn. This fact settled and slowly mixed with bucket list cement, which made my answer go from a hell no to an oh fuck we’re in.
I went along to the first class riddled with uncertainty. What to bring, what to eat, what to wear?? As if the actual practise isn’t bad enough, apparently when it comes to style, there are different sorts of yogis – the ones who wear harem pants, the ones who wear Lulu Lemon, the ones who wear Wu Tang Clan singlets – how did I fit in to all of this? In the end, I mixed Lu with Wu and became a hybrid so I had the potential to blend in to two groups. I could work out where I belonged, and progress from there – because as humans, belonging is the most important thing.
After a few pep talks, my sister and I walked confidently up the stairs, but that’s where the confidence ended. I made a mistake from the get go. I walked into the yoga studio with shoes on.
I managed to suppress my embarrassed titillating laughter, avoid all eye contact and calm my cheeks from the red that bloomed as I untied my laces and slid off my shoes faster than Usain can Bolt.
But then, more uncertainty.. What exactly did I need to extract from the shelving units?? There were stacks of mats, blocks, blankets, eye masks.. Was this yoga or had I ended up in some sort of strange school camp?
Surrounded by people who had their eyes closed, their legs elongated and faces that were perfectly placid yet still smiling, I thought I can’t do this. I don’t fit in here. Relaxation isn’t for everyone and it definitely isn’t for this Hustler. I was getting ready to roll up my borrowed mat and walk the hell out of there content with my permanently misaligned gait; but at the same time that motivation hit, the doors closed – and I was trapped.
My face waned and panic arose in my throat as the instructor started throwing animal names around; the cobra, the pigeon, the tiger, and most frequently – the down dog (why is he so depressed?). As she voiced these words, people would move and being of ape descent, I instinctually imitated those around me and tried as best I could to contort my body into similar shapes and positions. I was worried that everyone was looking at me, stressed that I was an imposter, worried that my outfit was not on point, until..
Oh gee. I’m self-absorbedly embarrassed.
Believe it or not – no one was looking at me. No one had thrown me a sideways glance. No one had given me the outfit up-down (which was a shame because my singlet was amazing).
Ya know who was looking at me, though? Me.
I was looking at myself through a lens of inadequacy. Before I’d even tried, I’d already convinced myself that I was incapable, unwelcome and unfit for task – so that was exactly how I felt.
I had assumed that yoga was all about flexibility, but it is not. I’d thought it was a club I could never belong to, but it’s not a club at all.
Yoga is about flexibility, yes – and yogis, correct me if I’m wrong – but I got the sense that it’s more about connection to your body, to breath, being forgiving, patient, kind to yourself. It’s being grateful for ability and working to improve your presence of mind in yoga, in body, in spirit and in life. It’s about coming in and leaving judgement at the door toward others and toward yourself.
This whole experience shone a bright light on a belief structure I didn’t even know I had. It made me realize that because of my past relationship to stretching, to flexibility, to yoga, I’ve felt incapable of even exploring anything that even loosely relates. I’ve made excuses, put myself down and not taken action because my self-awareness was in avoidance mode and my pride was trying to protect – and now, I can’t help but think – if I feel and think this way about something as seemingly casual as stretching, then what other limiting, false, internalized beliefs am I holding onto that in turn, prevent me from doing – because they have a hold on me?
Across 28 days, I attended yoga three times a week and by the end of it, I did feel better. I did feel more connected to my body. I did feel as if I was more in control of my movements and more aware of my surroundings. And the best part? I got to ditch that wretched phone for an hour a day without feeling guilty.
But the big question – do I want to make yoga a habit?
Yes. But not because I think I should. Not because I want to be Paul Grilley. Not because Instagram tells me it’s #trending. I want to keep yoga as part of my to-do list because it made me feel positively challenged, in the moment and definitely more connected to who I actually am, and that – as you’ll know by now – is what the hustle is all about.
So what’s next?? Well, it took yoga classes to make me aware of how distracting and present-moment-robbing it is to have a mini computer attached to my arm as an extra appendage 24/7 – and THIS is something I think that needs to be incorporated into the #MondayHustleChallenge list! I wanna explore the role of technology in my life a little further and try to highlight some of the habits that might be keeping me from the present moment.
So with that said – any ideas as to what the next 21 day challenge should be? I’m thinking along the lines of app deletion, phone-time limits/curfews etc.. Let me know what you think on Instagram, Facebook or in the comments below!
If you would like to sponsor the next Monday Hustle challenge, please email firstname.lastname@example.org