Triggered

I’d been sweating through yoga for a good 45 minutes already when the instructor had us pause to watch a partner pose.

And then she called on me to join her at the mat to demonstrate.

What?!

I know this instructor from my Friday night class. She’s your stereotypical Earth mama yogi. She’s perfect for a gentle class because it doesn’t require too much explanation of poses, just a lot of lofty hippyesque talk in a calming voice. She does that part really well. She’s been subbing for the regular instructor on Sundays and Supple and I have been attempting to follow along despite her instructions that are, at best, choppy and ill-timed. I need her to tell me what we’re going to do before we’re required to do it. Not tell me after I am bent into a contortion or tell me to exhale when I’ve already inhaled and exhaled twice. (Oops.)

So I walk up to her and the mat in front of watchful eyes. She asks me to bend into triangle pose. I’m looking at her like: Are you SURE you meant to pick me?! But the entire class is looking at me (in my tank top I might add) so to save face I position myself into it hoping I’m doing it right. She’s encouraging, standing close behind me but not touching me. From triangle she has me bend into my forward leg so that my leg is bent. Ok, got it. Then she has me place my fingers on the block near my front foot for balance. Ok, doing it. Now what?

Maybe it’s because I am paralyzed beyond the capacity for rational thought but I’m not hearing her tell me to do anything except hop my back leg forward towards my front leg. I do that again. Then again. I’m thinking, “Where is this pose going?” I have no frame of reference as I’ve never seen it performed, let alone done it myself. I’m feeling frustrated and wobbly because HELLO! HOW I AM SUPPOSED TO HOLD A POSE WHEN I AM SO PREOCCUPIED WITH PERFORMING and my knees are screaming at me and everyone is looking at me and I don’t know what the hell she’s asking me to do, I bow out. I tell her my knees can’t do it and apologize. I sheepishly make my way back to my mat at the wall and hope that I don’t look as much the fool as I feel.

Everyone applauds because yoga is encouraging and kind like that but in my head I imagine they are all thinking stuff like, “the fat girl couldn’t get into pose” or “what a shame she couldn’t do it”. I don’t like not being good at something. I especially don’t like not being good at something in public. All my self-esteem and failure shit is boiling up in me as I watch another woman move to the mat, bend her body into the pose, touch the block and then LIFT HER BACK LEG.

Wait. A. Second. I was supposed to lift my back leg?! Why didn’t she just say so!? I’m standing next to Supple whispering, “Did she ever say for me to lift my back leg?” But she doesn’t know because she couldn’t hear the instructions given the teacher’s back was to her.

Well, fuck me.

So Supple and I spot each other on the pose. She folds her body into it and holds it. Then it’s my turn. I get into triangle, streaming my chest out and my arm up high to the ceiling. I’m breathing. I scoot my back leg towards my front and ensure the weight is on the front leg and hand. I’m focused on my center and my breathing when I lift my back leg up and out. I’m doing it.

I’m doing it! I’m in half moon pose.

Right then the teacher comes by saying, “I knew you could do it!” She’s apologetic saying she didn’t realize I wasn’t familiar with the pose when she called me up. She was kind and reassured me that I did what she needed me to do- to show how to hold the triangle pose steady from the core. I’m still stewing over the embarrassment though through the rest of class despite trying to push it asideΒ  or shake it loose.

Class ends and the woman who had picked up my slack to show the class how to get into half moon came over to my mat. She wanted me to know that when she started yoga a year and a half ago she couldn’t even get into to triangle like I did. It was sweet of her to offer that to me. As I was putting on my shoes another student came up to me saying she thought it was brave that I went up there. It’s nice that people are compassionate. I’m still trying to drop it from my psyche though. Forgive myself for not performing properly. For not knowing what I did not know.

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22 thoughts on “Triggered

  1. Relax! The awesome thing about yoga is that everyone is supposed to move to their own ability. I don’t know any poses, so I end up following what I see more experienced people doing. You didn’t know the pose and you followed instructions the best you could. If you stress about how it looks or whether you’re doing it right, you’re not getting anything out of it. Ultimately you proved to yourself that you CAN do the pose. Don’t worry about everyone else. I’m sure they’re more concerned with not falling on their faces than with what you potentially can or can’t do.

  2. Well, I think something to maybe keep in mind as a sincere compliment, is that she asked you up there to begin with. She must have thought you were doing really, really well! πŸ™‚

    Also? Just tell yourself, that next time, you will KNOW. That is the only comfort I can offer myself, in such situations.You are learning and growing in so many ways! It’s really awesome to hear about, honestly.

  3. Please don’t judge yourself so harshly. You didn’t know, she didn’t explain it, no one cares. Everyone else is just thankful they didn’t have to get up and do it. Give yourself some credit for doing something out of your comfort zone. And I bet you look hot in your tank top.

  4. I know this situation was uncomfortable but I think you had a bit of a break-through. One of my best friends is a yogi and she always tells me that she doesn’t love teaching in a class environment because people spend the entire class judging themselves. She tells me that yoga isn’t about judging how well or perfect you can do a pose in comparison to your peers; it is an exercise in self discovery. I think you discovered that you were capable of more than you thought and that is kind of what yoga is all about! I have had times where I thought “there is no way in hell I can bend that way” and then I just tried it and discovered I could. There is something divine in challenging your body that way and silencing the voice in your head.

    And just think- if you could get to a place where you didn’t judge yourself during your yoga practice…couldn’t that translate into other parts of your life.

  5. I think it is great that you went up there and did that even though you weren’t familiar witht the pose. You don’t have any idea who you may have inspired in that class that couldn’t even get to where you did and said to themselves, “Hey, someday I might be able to do as good as her.” I think I might have been one of those people, had I been there. πŸ˜‰

  6. Performing on cue in front of a group, no matter your skill level (yoga or otherwise) is a bit nerve-wracking. That’s why I always loved basketball more than track when I was participating in sports competitively. In basketball you’re part of a team, a cohesive unit that runs and slides and scores together. In track, while you’re still part of a team, it’s all eyes on you when you’re running your race, or your portion of a relay. I did it for years, and did it pretty well, but it never stopped being a certain amount of scary.

    I love how encouraging your classmates were. When we went to Dance Dance Party Party last weekend the two gals who run it are also yoga instructors and they were so encouraging and kind and awesome.

  7. You are the only one who thinks you were a failure. No one else does. No one. Everyone else either thinks you’re brave, don’t remember their own name let alone a random girl from yoga class, or is all inclusive supportive.

    Before the rest of my comments you should know that I’ve basically given up on land based yoga because it puts too much stress on an arm injury. Plus, my temperment is not well suited for yoga. So I am in no way a yoga expert. But here is my understanding:

    Yoga is about your journey through the poses and connecting with yourself. The instructor is there to guide you. Guide you. Like the speed limit is there to guide you. Sometimes you go faster than the speed limit. Sometimes you go slower. As long as you drive safely, you generally make it to your destination successfully. For yoga, success is showing up and focusing on the breathing and the poses. Success is not doing the poses perfectly. Or breathing at the exact same rate and time as anyone else.

    Something else to think about: no one else judged you as harshly as you did yourself. Read that sentence again. If it had been your friend who was doing the pose and had difficulty at the end, would you have judged her as being a failure? No. You didn’t fail. When you find you are being critical of yourself, stop and think about what your reaction would be if the person being criticized was your best friend instead of yourself. Chances are you would be kind and supportive rather than judgmental. You need to love yourself and be as kind to yourself as you are for your friends.

  8. Triangle is such a complicated pose for me! The teacher should’ve made sure she picked someone who knew how to do the pose. But I agree with Julianne that you were the only one judging. Yoga is the one place I’ve learned to be less critical. We are all at different levels and I love that I can tailor my practice to what I need, not anyone else. And at the end of the day, I bet you’ll never forget how you learned to do Half Moon. πŸ™‚

  9. This proves my theory that, despite the hippie talk, yoga classes are hotbeds of ruthless competition. Or more specifically, they’re full of ruthlessly competitive people trying their hardest to be hippies. At least that’s how it is in L.A.

  10. You can pat yourself on the back for not running out the door. Then pat yourself on the back again when you return to the class.

    Why are so many of us so much harder on ourselves than on others? It’s like we have matured past junior high when dealing with everyone else but ourselves.

  11. Not only is Triangle not an easy pose – Half Moon is DAMNED DIFFICULT. I totally understand why you were frustrated, both with your instructor and yourself, but I’m still proud of you.

  12. Ah, it’s my hope to actually know what you’re talking about! (I need to get to yoga. Seriously.)

    I’m positive you did fine and the thing is, most people actually think far less about what we’re doing than they do about what they’re doing. But I do understand the self-consciousness, as I can also be that way.

  13. Instead of looking at that experience as a failure, why not look at it as a new opportunity. You’d never gotten in front of a class like that before. You’d never set an example for others in the class. You never pushed yourself outside your box like that before. I say you made great strides … and also? I’ll bet you’ll never forget how to do half moon pose again!

  14. I would have hated that! I can completely imagine it and put myself in your place and I would feel exactly as you did. However, I doubt anyone else thought much of it at all…I am always so much nicer to other people than I am to myself.

  15. So is full moon when she pulls down your pants?

    Seriously though, good on you for getting up there. I used to hate being used for examples in kick boxing.

  16. Woo hoo! Half-Moon-Sizzle!

    I had an instructor use me in front of the class to show how to spot for a handstand and all I could think was, “I’m totally going to fart in his face.”

    Thankfully, I did not.

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