The last months of 2015 I brought my A-game to the yoga studio about five times a week. I had my mind set on a teacher training in March and wanted to whip my butt into shape asap.
Result? I didn't enjoy my practice anymore and had zero desire to get back to the studio after the holidays.
Generally speaking I am pretty good at accepting my limitations: my tight hamstrings, my unopened hips. There is one pose however that I just cannot get the hang of and that pisses me off royally: standing head to knee pose. My yoga nemesis posture.
Three years of hot yoga and I have never been able to do it. Ever. In the early days my legs were still strong enough to run a half marathon, but there was no way my muscles would yield me a strong base. I wobble, I cramp, my knee doesn’t lock & I fall. Gosh, 9 out of 10 times I don’t even make it into the first stage of the pose.
Now I know that you don’t need to have a perfect practice to attend teacher training. Everyone has things they’re good at and things that need work. Splendid. Problem is that for hot yoga this blissful rule doesn't include this one pose. Teachers have to demonstrate standing head to knee all the time (because it’s so hard!), so being able to kill it is kind of a requirement.
The more I fussed over it the harder I fell out of it, and a negative spiral was born. I regularly came home after a class with a grump, decided that nothing was worth not enjoying my practice anymore and I dropped the idea of teacher training for now. (Plus, stressing over yoga made me question if I am even mentally ready... different story though)
I started working in the studio instead, exams came up and somehow practiced only three times in January. OOPS. But when I was there I enjoyed every second and that felt good.
Last Tuesday I took my first class in over a week, expecting nothing but pain. Battling my nemesis pose? Didn’t even occur to me. Until I did it.
Somehow, I managed to stand and kick out and hold it for a couple of seconds and then repeat it all on the other side.
It was one of those earth-shaking moments in which everything you ever heard before falls into place. (And after which you look around and realise that no one else noticed... sad times)
What fell into place? Well this!
5 THINGS the yoga-nemesis-struggle taught me
1. Progress comes when it comes
There is no rushing it. Obviously, practice is vital, but obsession and force will not win you the battle. Your body yields when it's ready and no sooner.
2. It’s all about the mind
Mental resistance will hinder you more than you think (the more so when balancing on one leg while doing funky things is involved). You need the mental stamina to challenge yourself; if you lag behind in your comfort zone nothing exciting will ever happen. The mind can be your loudest cheerleader or biggest enemy. Which one do you want by your side? Right.
3. The body changes constantly
That thing your teachers always tell you? It's true.
4. Be determined to try your hardest and then let go
If your goal is getting into a certain pose, you might never get there (see points 1 & 3). And even if you do, you’re unlikely to get there fast. Either way you are setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment along the way if you focus on nothing else.
What if you would let go of the goal, and instead vow to always try your hardest? Whatever it is you're working on, you don't have to wait for an opportunity to do your best. No long road of disappointment necessary... you can succeed at that today. And tomorrow. And every day after that!
5. practice without judgment and expectation
The gist of everything together: don't compare yourself to others and don't compare yourself to your previous (or imaginary future) self. You are not the lady in the stripey top in the left-hand corner and the body you had last week is no longer. Don't judge yourself for what you do or how you feel. Just do your thing and let it be.