Every time I come to the mat, I try to be all there. This is no small feat for me- a woman who is often caught up in planning for what ifs in the future or mulling over supposed failures of the past. Being here now is a state of mind that I strive to cultivate and yoga helps me do just that. Because when I show up to class and try to hold a difficult pose, it’s not my body that sabotages me from holding it most of the time. It’s my mind.
When we do the dreaded plank pose for one minute, I can feel us building up to it and my mind starts whirling with thoughts, fears, what ifs. Those little seeds of doubt creep in and my mind distracts me from my purpose. When I lower myself into it, I’m already spinning the negativity in my head. I’m not telling myself things like “you can do this!” but instead saying things like “this sucks! you’re so out of shape!”.
And when I do that? I can’t hold the pose for sixty seconds. I have to drop my knees and that failure feeling washes over me. A self-fulfilling prophecy. The rest of class is spent trying to shut off the berating tirade my mind is yelling at me. Thankfully I have a teacher who is good at reminding us that it’s about the process, not perfection. I need to hear that message a thousand times a day.
My yoga practice reinforces this truth: the thing that is most often stopping me from success or from moving forward is, in fact, me. My own negative thoughts. Me being so damn hard on myself. Me not believing in me.
So sure, I’d love to be in great shape and be able to hold plank pose for an entire minute. I’d love to flip myself into an unassisted handstand. But getting there is going to take a lot of self-belief, patience, and trust in the process. The things that come easiest are not the most appreciated. Having something to strive for or improve is not a detriment but a gift.
On so many levels practicing yoga allows me to love myself in a whole new way. I get to feel my body’s own strength. I get the chance to try to quiet the chatter of my mind and focus on one thing only. I get the opportunity to practice being patient and kind to myself. It is more than just exercise. For me, it’s a path to my best self.