“IF YOUR FEAR IS KEEPING YOU FROM TRYING IT, TRY TO TRUST WHAT WAS MY EXPERIENCE, LET YOURSELF FEEL FOOLISH FOR JUST ONE HOUR AND I GUARANTEE WHAT COMES OF IT WILL BE MAGICAL"
I was asked by a friend to write about my Yoga experience. I laughed at such an idea; my musings would only make for more fear for others. That is the way I sometimes judge things, is by the level of fear that I experience. But as I contemplated maybe doing what she so graciously asked, I started thinking about my experience to date and it brought a smile and a sense of accomplishment. I decided I would give this writing thing a go, walk through my fear of what others think of the way I think.
I got interested in yoga after having dinner with some friends. These are the friends that you watch walk through life with dignity, grace and peace no matter the situation. They always have something positive to say about anything and you see them being helpful to others whenever they can. These are the friends that get uneasy if you talk negative about something or especially someone, always pointing out the good things you seem to miss. These principles and qualities are the very things I aspire to be. I want the merits and grace that they possess. I have been taught if I want to be like someone then I have to do what they did to get like that. I asked where they found this peacefulness, how they can be the calm in the storm and how, in this ungraceful world they can walk with grace. All of them, without hesitation answered with Yoga, which to them was the same as meditation.
I don’t think I have ever looked at yoga that way, and never really contemplated the outcome of practicing yoga. In my warped mind the idea that was given when I type yoga in Google or Pinterest are these very graceful, physically beautiful humans, doing poses in the middle of nature, poses that four people couldn’t have forcefully gotten me into if they tried. When I see things like that, I get full of fear of what I would look like to others, which is always the crux of my problem.
I believe that whatever is “Out There” watching over us will give what is needed when it is needed and I was asking for a yoga class to be closer and more convenient, which true fully was actually to say that it was a good excuse for not going to a yoga class. And then it happened, a class was coming to a Martial Arts Studio right up the street. I believe everything happens for a reason and this was my cue and I decided to walk through my fear and try it out.
Fear 1 is walking through the door…. My mind tells me everyone will stop, turn and stare, and judge, that was not my experience. When I walked through the door, I was greeted by the Martial Arts instructor, who thought I was there for his class. He looked a little disappointed when I said I was there for yoga and he directed me to the instructor. Miss Kimberly, the instructor, greeted me with enthusiasm, had me do the “Does the Doctor know you trying this!” forms and then showed me where we would be “practicing”. I soon found out from her that this was one of their first classes at this location, so not many people knew about it yet. I figured out the three people who did show up, were at first glance, as nervous as I was, which alleviated some of my trepidation.
Fear 2 is being laughed at for flopping around like a fish out of water. The truth is, everyone there had their strengths and weaknesses in all the different poses… but when it came down to it, no one was watching me at all. They were having their own little battles with the poses just like me. At that point I became part of, not separated from. Yoga is about you dealing with you and the fear you walked in with.
So, now about the actual class and subsequent classes since….
It became quite apparent that this was going to be a total work-out. All fears disappeared when it was suggested by the instructor that not falling out of a pose was worse than falling out of a pose…. WHAT? She just gave me permission to fail and it was cool. My first class (practice) was beginning to be a pretty cool experience. She gave instructions on how to breathe and why, explaining that if I concentrate on breath, everything becomes easier, less restrictive. She explained why my muscles go into “Fight or Flight”, why my body naturally tightens up to protect itself and how to slowly teach my mind and body to let go, just a little at a time. Slowly learning to trust it and it trust me. As I practiced what was given in this first class, I could start to see the benefits of yoga. Without even trying, just using the body’s mass as the resistance, I was pushing my muscles past anything I could have imagined at the time. The idea of just remaining still, using your own body to cause resistance while letting your mind wander and observe was some really amazing stuff. And again, I became a part of even more.
I’m a clock watcher and a perfectionist, which don’t work well doing Yoga. Practicing poses and trying to do what was suggested was more than I imagined. When you would hit a pose, hold it for any length of time and breathe as suggested, it became quite the opposite of what it appears. It was suggested to observe your thoughts, don’t attach to them and deal with them later. Eckhart Tolle suggests the same thing, and when practiced, the results are real. My friends had told me that yoga was as much a mental game as it is a physical one and that is the main reason I wanted to try it. The things in my mind that got observed and discarded was pretty amazing. Even before getting halfway through the first class I could see the benefits of doing this continually.
What I didn’t expect was to how we came to end the practice, as I learned was what this was called. We made our way slowly to a pose on our back, totally relaxed, listening to some music I wasn’t familiar with. At first uncomfortable, this was a really vulnerable position after the last 50 minutes. As I lay there, the results were evident even to the layman, there was a peaceful calm feeling that came over me. The fear was gone, I felt accomplishment. Not just physical accomplishment, but mental gratification. The instructor was talking in this very monotone voice giving suggestions on how to finish what was started in this practice. She went from one participant to the next, touching your forehead with oil? Not sure, but if felt awesome. My first experience with yoga was coming to a close and I thought it was pretty cool and very much what I was looking for.
While doing a little research (I am a technical writer, I don’t ever write without research) before beginning this writing exercise, I found this paragraph about what was gained from doing yoga and I couldn’t have written these thoughts any better, so I am using her musing. “Going off of the spiritually-focused method of yoga, the teacher would often inject some wisdom or thoughts while we were flexing our bodies. One thing that he said was particularly meaningful to me. He told us to think of things we wanted to let go of or that are no longer serving us and to “let them have their moment” before releasing them from our present. I appreciated his advice to acknowledge the past and allow it to live before letting it go, rather than shoving it somewhere in our mind where it will eventually resurface.”, Melyssa Griffin wrote this on her blog. I found exactly what Miss Melyssa wrote to be my experience, and now I understand the way my friends walk through this sometimes difficult life with dignity and grace. It is understood.
Since my experience has grown in this Yoga practice I have learned some things that have deep meaning to me. One thing Miss Kimberly says is “you are exactly where you need to be.” There is no pressure to do a pose, in fact there is always an easier way, which is suggested, might be what you want to try if you feel you are pushing yourself too hard, and then there is always child’s pose. And after a really tough day, being on your mat, sharing a space with some other not so perfect humans, dealing with your thoughts and what doesn’t serve you at the moment is a really cool proposition.
The fears are gone and I have even found a love not only for Yoga, but for Tai Chi also. For a short time, a very gracious person gave of their time and taught Tai Chi. She showed the grace and enjoyment of learning the 28 moves, what it brought about, and how, in the middle of doing your best, the thoughts that no longer serve you can be cast to one side and a whole new set of concepts and ideas can be achieved.
If you’re fear is keeping you from trying it, try to trust what was my experience, let yourself feel foolish for just one hour and I guarantee what comes of it will be magical!
MIKE SCHRATZ / SENIOR TECHINCAL WRITER / GULFSTREAM