In high school, it seemed like all my friends and my mom’s friends were getting into yoga. At the time, I ran cross country, but I missed a lot of practices because of a repetitive leg injury. I had a regimen of physical therapy that included exercises like scrunching up a towel under my feet with my toes and stretches with an elastic band. The combination of endurance and flexibility in yoga appealed to me. I also had previous experience with visualization and meditation through workshops at my dad’s chemotherapy center, so I thought, I’ve got this. Yoga is going to be so easy for me to pick up!
I bought an everyday yoga book, took a mat from a pilates kit my mom had, and dove into a daily practice that lasted for all of a week. After weeks went by, I thought that taking a yoga class might be a better way to get into the practice. There were two problems there. First, I was in high school and didn’t have the income to pay for classes. Second, I had always thought you should be able to learn and do anything at home. I had learned knitting that way, so why not yoga?
I decided I could do without a class. Every once in awhile, I would try to pick up my home practice again and fail within weeks. Finally, one summer, I took a class with senior citizens at my mom’s gym.
I loved the sense of community that came with practicing yoga together, even with the age gap. When I went back to college though, I didn’t join a yoga studio. Even though I knew community, commitment, structure, and instruction were obviously important parts of the experience for me (at least in this beginning stage). Why have I been to classes so infrequently when I know they are something I feel enriched by?
Some of my friends have taken different paths. Early on, they took classes and found like-minded friends. They are serious in their pursuit of yoga both in and outside their homes. I admire their practice. I sometimes feel inferior, like my friends are on a completely different level than I am. They exude a sense of calm that I crave.
Earlier this summer, I went to a Yoga to the People class in Manhattan. I felt so outmatched. It seemed to me like lululemon could have shot an ad there. I do think having all the right products you need for a specialized practice is great, but I just felt a little out of place and unprepared in old leggings and a t-shirt. During the class, I struggled to keep up with transitions and understand the shape of poses that everyone else had no problem with. The volume of sighs on exhales was also so surprising! (Again, it’s awesome for people to be so expressive, I just hadn’t encountered anything like it before.) Now when I think of going into a class full of experienced practitioners, I get anxious about how I don’t know the names of many poses, how my body is uncooperative, how my mind is ricocheting from floor to ceiling and is anywhere but in the present. When I peer into the window of my neighborhood studio, I get mildly panicked, thinking about the kind of person I should be, but clearly am not.
These days, I’ve been trying Elsie’s Yoga Kula Podcast. While it’s a little advanced for me in some ways, I can usually stumble through a routine (while pausing and looking up poses on my tablet) and feel much better for it. I’m not sure I’ll ever gain the same commitment as some of my friends, or the confidence to go to classes regularly, but I am beginning to better appreciate the limitations of what I can learn at home.
Am I a better person now that I was yesterday? Have I improved my home practice? I’m not sure, but I do know that at the end of a day where I’ve practiced yoga, I do feel more whole. And I know even if I’m not necessarily moving forward at as fast a rate as everyone else seems to, I am at least moving.
What does your yoga practice look like? Do you have any favorite teachers? Have you had any experiences where the skill level between you and the room was wildly different? (Please tell me I’m not the only one! )