This month I decided I should take up yoga. I've not had too much experience with this, though I did try a DVD once at home several years ago and somehow managed to mess up my shoulder for a few days. Groupon had a great deal on yoga classes recently, so I thought it would be a good November New Thing. (Yes, I know it's December. Cut me some slack). If you're just tuning in, this year I have vowed to do one new thing a month to get me out of my comfort zone and remember to actually do interesting things with my life. Read the beginning of my story here- My 12 New Things.
I hadn't put a lot of thought into my impending yoga experience and I didn't even consult Wikipedia on the topic before leaving my house this morning, which is what I usually do. My game plan was to sit in the back row and muddle my way through the Yoga 101 class and then decide later if I wanted to do more than one class.
I absolutely loved it. But, not at first.
I walked in slightly late and the studio was warm, dark and lit up with candles and low, relaxing music was playing. I could have sworn I was in the womb, it was so cozy. I rolled out my mat and sat the way I saw others sitting.
I instantly questioned my pants and underwear choice. The yoga studio's website suggested loose but not baggy pants. I thought I had made an appropriate choice- what I was wearing were called yoga pants after all. But as I sat and then followed the instructor into various poses, all I could think about was if my crack was showing. Then, as we moved from the child's pose to the downward dog I wondered if my thong was showing. Next I contemplated if it was better to show crack or thong. I was still pondering this when new thoughts interrupted my crack/ thong thoughts, "Holy crap.... this is kind of hard."
I always wondered how yoga fit into a fitness routine, but now I see how the poses really strengthen your body and am still sore to prove it. My instructor was a beautiful brunette named Ruthanne who had the body and grace of a dancer. During one particularly difficult pose, she came over and showed me where to put my arms and legs, kindly saying, "You're in kind of a complicated game of Twister, aren't you?! Sorry!" She was apologizing to ME because I wasn't coordinated enough to figure out what it was she was telling me to do. Where was the humiliation I was expecting that had been so prominent during my skiing and ice skating experiences?! I instantly fell in love with Ruthanne the yoga instructor.
Throughout the 90 minute class Ruthanne softly quoted mantras such as, "Just be" and "Whatever is causing you tension right now- acknowledge it and let it go." At the end of the class, she led us in a relaxation exercise. I swear it was like being tucked in for naptime at pre-school. We were laying on our backs, focusing on clearing our minds, palms up with lavender satchels over our eyes. Ruthanne even laid blankets over each of us. It was heavenly.
I left my yoga class feeling like I could, in fact, "just be." I seem to always be focusing on accomplishing, achieving, doing, or charting out my plan for the future. When I'm not focusing on those things, I'm focusing on who I'm not, what I'm not good at and who I'd like to be. On the way to my yoga class this morning, I was even thinking of an alter ego of myself, what she would be like and how she could help give me inspiration. This was probably because of the movie I watched last night. The nerdy boy in Youth in Revolt had a flashy, irreverent bad-boy alter ego named Francois who helped him be his inner bada$$.Granted, he landed in juvie for it, but nonetheless it helped him accomplish his goals. Even Beyonce has an alter ego named Sasha Fierce. (I think this is funny because some people probably fantasize their alter egos as Beyonce or maybe since what they're seeing is Beyonce's alter ego, their alter ego is actually her alter ego...).
Back to me.
My alter ego would be Chantel- the name I had chosen to go by in my high school French class. (We all had to choose names, I didn't just randomly insist on being called Chantel.).
Chantel would be irreverent as all alter egos are. She would be naturally and effortlessly thin but with the discipline to be a marathon-running vegan. Chantel would be witty and intellectual with perfect poise and spend her weekends hang gliding, flying her helicopter, and feeding the homeless. All things in Chantel's house would be in perfect order and her child(ren) would always be well groomed, precocious and polite. Chantel would conscientiously buy the most thoughtful gifts and actually get them to the recipients well before the date of whatever celebration was in order. Her house would always be clean and without a single thing out of place. Chantel would have it all together, but she wouldn't concern herself with what others thought about her perfection.
I thought through all of this on my drive to my yoga class, thinking that having some sort of fantasy avatar would help me focus on actually becoming that person. During my yoga class, though, I decided to give the idea of "Just be" a whirl. It is incredibly exhausting to continuously think about how I could be better, always be in control and fix all problems around me. I decided today that I don't have to.
Earlier this week I read something that further affirms this for me. I was given a daily devotional book called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I found this to be very helpful because when I pray (sporadically, as you might guess, with an increased frequency when I'm struggling), I tend to pray in strategy and ask for step by step things to work out in a certain way by certain dates. You've probably already guessed that this isn't generally effective.
The Jesus Calling devotional for November 30 says:
Problems are a part of life. They are inescapable, woven into the very fabric of this fallen world. You tend to go into problem solving mode all too readily, acting as if you have the capacity to fix everything. This is a habitual response, so automatic that it bypasses your conscious thinking. Not only does this habit frustrate you, it also distances you from me.
Do not let fixing things be your top priority. You are ever so limited in your capacity to correct all that is wrong in the world around you. Don’t weigh yourself down with the responsibilities that are not your own. Instead, make your relationship with Me your primary concern. Talk with Me about whatever is on your mind, seeking My perspective on the situation. Rather than trying to fix everything that comes to your attention, ask Me to show you what is truly important. Remember that you are en route to heaven, and let your problems fade in the Light of eternity.Psalm 32:8, Luke 10:41-42, Philippians 3:20-21
Given that passage and my yoga experience, I am going to give myself permission to "just be." I'm learning that I can only do what is within my control and even some things within my control aren't going to go as planned. I need to be okay with that and I will be.
I'm also looking forward to my next 5 yoga classes. My Groupon was for 5 classes and when I got there, the chick told me the first class is always free. Holla!