Giving My Best

“It’s the start of a new month which means a new focus pose. For the next two months we will be focusing on two things- 1) holding plank pose for one whole minute. . .”

{Insert my mind’s response: Holy hell NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I can barely hold myself in plank for a few seconds. I am so fucked. I’m going to have to quit yoga. And I really was starting to love it. THIS SUCKS!}

” . . .And 2) handstands.”

{Insert my mind’s response: FUCK! I can’t do a handstand. I’m really going to have to quit. There is no way I am going to be able to do either of those. I’ll just look like a fat, uncoordinated asshole. Oh my god this sucks so much.}

I tried to focus on the words she was saying and tune out my internal dialogue of predicting failure but damn that voice inside my head is loud. As we moved into the beginning of class where we mentally center ourselves, I let my racing heart slow as I listened to the instructor lead us in the invocation. We moved through various poses until she had us, on our hands and knees, look to someone to our left or right and say, “YOU CAN DO THIS!”ย  I looked over at Supple and we both said the words but I’m pretty sure the fear in my eyes made me unconvincing. Also that I mumbled “Fuck” to myself right before we went into it. But then it was time and I had to put my focus entirely on my mind and turn the negative thoughts to positive if I was going to complete those 60 seconds on my hands and toes holding my body straight like a plank. (For non-yogis imagine plank pose as holding yourself in the up position of a push up with arms fully extended.)

I breathed deeply. I stared intently at the space between my hands. I tried to shift my focus from the screaming burning in my arms to the strength in my legs. I thought about my core and tightened it.ย  I listened to my instructor’s voice. Thirty more seconds. The voice inside me said: Don’t put your knees down, Sizz! You want this. You want to accomplish this for yourself. So what if you gave in every other time. This time can be different! Ten more seconds. Ten seconds is totally doable. It’s okay that your arms are shaking. You are almost there. Don’t quit now. And. . . knees can go down. Sixty seconds are over. Good God I did it!

I still can’t believe I did it. I felt rather invincible after that. My shocked smile stretched across my sweaty face.

But then we got to handstands.

Let me explain. I have never in my life done a handstand. I was not one of those kids who did cartwheels or handstands. I’ve been convinced that if I attempted it I would break my own neck. I am, after all, a girl who trips and falls often. I also had a very bad spill over a babysitter’s shoulders as a tot when she tripped on the sidewalk and I went flying over her and landed on the cement. Breaking my neck is a very viable option in my mind. So to say that my instructor saying handstand is our focus pose triggered a domino effect of panic within me is no understatement.

But then she told us that as a girl her best friend was a gymnast and she was the exact opposite- she could not and would not do handstands or all that tumbling. When she first started practicing yoga and her instructor said they were going to learn handstands, she thought to herself that she would have to quit class. (Like me!) She said that for the first 2-3 years of practicing it she only got up half of the way but then one day she just went all the way up and into it. This news calmed me considerably as I admire my teacher and if she could start in a similar place as me and be the yogi she is today, I could too. It gave me hope.

We partnered up as to give ourselves support with alignment of the pose. Feet pressed to shoulder blades to keep them straight as we bent our bodies into what would someday be the foundation of the handstand. Then we went to the walls and while on our forearms we folded at the waist and walked our feet up the wall behind us. And there I was, halfway to a handstand with the help of the wall and my trusty spotter, Supple. I WAS DOING IT!

I immediately started laughing. The relief of realizing that I these poses were not such a long shot for me after all filled me with glee. I have spent most of my life believing I am not an athlete, that I can’t do strenuous or difficultย  things with my body because of my size, that the sheer embarrassment of trying is enough to stop me in my tracks before I even try. But with yoga, I get to be gentler with myself because the message is always about the practice not perfection. That each time I go into a pose I hold it deeper or longer or better but there is no failure. There is only the best I can give that day.

This is a tremendous lesson for me to learn.

And I’m taking it to heart.


26 thoughts on “Giving My Best

  1. Ah! This makes me so excited for you because I know just how that feels. And even years after learning and actually doing certain poses, some days it’s as if you never learned them at all. I love how yoga teaches us to look at one thing, or one day at a time, as a different entity than anything that surrounds it. It’s awesome! You’re awesome! I’ll shut up now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. A quote I love, and say to myself frequently, – You can do what you have to do and sometimes you can do it better than you think you can. I don’t know who said it, but remind yourself of your success in yoga class the next time those voices in your head are doubting your abilities.

  3. “I have spent most of my life believing I am not an athlete, that I canโ€™t do strenuous or difficult things with my body because of my size, that the sheer embarrassment of trying is enough to stop me in my tracks before I even try.”

    Me too sista, me too.

    And now, I can do push ups. And planks. And deadlift 130 lbs.
    Faith, trust and the belief that we can do these things is worth a million.

    I admire your perseverance. And I’m so proud of you!


  4. OMG, Sizzle! I’m so freakin’ proud. That’s badass. I did my first headstand in yoga on Monday and nearly shit myself with excitement. Disregard, of course, the fact that it took the assistance of no fewer than 8 yoga blocks and one patient teacher to help me get my feet over my head. After that I decided I never wanted to be right-side up again.

  5. Up until a few seconds ago, I thought I was the only child who lived in fear of doing anything terribly athletic out of fear of breaking my neck. Wow. Amazing.

    Joe, my friend and trainer, says “you are doing this!” … rather than can… I’m starting to think there is something to her words.

  6. It was awesome! You were awesome! I am feeling the same fear and dread of inability to accomplish these seemingly impossible feats. But ain’t it great when we realize we CAN do this. Hope. Excitement. Almost giddy with the idea of what other things we can accomplish if we just try and do it.
    I got your back, literally…I will place my feet on your shoulder blades anytime!

  7. I love when a lesson can be simplified in an easy to remember phrase. “The practice, not perfection.” SUCH a true statement. You are so good at the practice of life: you love fully, you take risks, you dare to believe in a future where you are better, where you love more, where you accept and receive the love given to you. I am both proud and inspired when I read your words. I just really think you’re swell, lady.

  8. Congratulations! I love reading this! And I absolutely love that last paragraph because I, too, do athletic things while telling myself I am not an athlete. ๐Ÿ™‚ Great job, girlie. You did it.

  9. This is what I love about yoga. It’s a practice, and with practice you often end up getting it, but it really is the practice of it not the perfection. If you could just blow through all the moves, would you get the same thing out of it all? Probably not.

  10. oh i just LOVE this post!! so excellent and inspiring to anyone struggling with anything physical (*coughcoughnotthatiwouldknowCOUGH*)

    one of the girls in my pole dancing class can do what i *think* you’re describing – where she puts her forarms on the ground in plank pose, basically, then pulls her feet in toward her upper body while keeping legs & back straight, then just… unfolds.. vertically.. into a handstand. WHAT THE HECK. the rest of us have been trying to do it, but i feel like i don’t even know what muscles to contract….!!

  11. I love the idea that the best we can give changes from one day to the next. Oh how true that rings. And super stoked to hear you did a handstand AFTER holding plank for a minute. You’re turning out to be quite the yoga rock star!

  12. I loved this post, LOVED IT. and that last part about just giving the best you can on any given day was great. and what I aspire to. Without guilt

  13. Sweeeet! What a great post. Handstands are my least favorite, too. I’m always afraid I’m going to rip one in my spotter’s face. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ And plank for 60 seconds? Holy mother. I did a yoga DVD for the first time in months last week and my abs were sore for days. I am bowing to you now, my friend. Namaste. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. I spent a good 38% of my childhood upside-down, but some of the lead-up poses for handstands still seem totally counter-intuitive to me (like the one from dolphin pose where you plant your face inches from the ground–isn’t the point of doing a handstand to keep your face AWAY from the ground?). I like the one I think you’re describing, though–the L shape with someone’s foot on your back? That one feels safe, and like it could lead to a handstand. And I know it will for you!

  15. An even greater beauty is the same idea translates identically to life. Believing that YOU (your body/mind/heart) can do anything, opens the world up to exactly what you make of it!

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