It isn’t the first time I’ve cried on my mat. It’s almost the safest place to cry. Maybe that’s why I was there that night… maybe I needed it again.
I’ve been practicing a lot of yoga lately. There’s an amazing studio called Yoga District that is warm and fun and wonderful. Perhaps artificially injecting a bit of balance and strength into my life. “Act as if…” I tell myself. Act balanced and strong and maybe I will be. But an Ashtanga class I took Tuesday night left me… off balance. Or rather, my lack of balance is why my yoga class was so hard. I couldn’t hold a pose. I couldn’t stay up. The simplest of poses were nearly impossible. I stumbled, loudly. In a carpetless room of silenced ladies in their mid-twenties twisting and balancing with ease, my clunky, clumsy practice felt conspicuous.
The more I fell out of poses, the more frustrated I became. I silently yelled at my ankles to support me. I begged them to be strong. I prayed to keep the next pose a little longer. Then I couldn’t take it any longer. I was embarrassed (the opposite of what once should be in yoga class – the teacher always tells us to close our eyes so we have our own practice, not someone else’s). I humbled myself into child’s pose and wept. Silently. As inconspicuously as one can weep on one’s mat in one’s yoga class.
Tucked away in child’s post, I asked myself, “What are you doing? What are you getting from this moment? What did you need right now? Are you pushing yourself too hard on a night that you needed to go easy?” And just then I felt two hands on my back. My teacher had come over to comfort me. Wordlessly. I didn’t move. I stayed in child’s pose and drank in the energy. Then I got back up and continued my practice.
In a movie, the rest of my practice would have been amazing. Strong. Balanced. But it wasn’t. I still struggled. But I finished the class. I kept trying poses to see if one stuck. If I couldn’t balance on my feet, perhaps I could balance on my hands. Perhaps I could stretch a little farther. Perhaps I could twist a little more. And at the end of class when it was time for headstand, the teacher saw me try, and then give up. He came over and put his hand on my leg. “Do you want to go up?” he asked. “Not today. Not when I’m this unbalanced.” And he said, “Today is the best day for you to try – especially because you’re off balance.” So I did. And I failed. But I tried. I let him support me. I let myself look weak. “Look” – I say because I wasn’t weak. I was just differently strong that night. I need to find new muscles to support me when others let me down. And I need to learn to be ok with failing.