Internal Mantra

Despite repeated attempts in class and at home, I cannot seem to get up into crow pose (AKA Holy Shitasana). I feel a deep sense of failure and shame about this.

Crow pose requires balance and core strength and the ability to fold your body into itself. I’m having difficulty getting my knees up close enough to my upper arms because I have this monstrosity in the way. My massive, unsightly, annoying belly.

Once I begin to feel the frustration all I focus on is my belly. I send it angry, hateful messages. I belittle it. I blame it for my shortcoming. I get wholly distracted with negativity and shame. Is it any wonder  why I can’t do the pose?

Um, no.

Yesterday’s class focused on truthfulness about our bodies and what we are capable of. Not that we were the “best” in class or the “worst” in class but personally where we were at, stretching into our own possibility. And you know what I thought about for 97% of the class?

Yep. How I suck.

So of course I kept falling out of poses and wavering and having knee pain, etc. ad nauseum. As the class went on, my frustration grew. I was distracted and comparing myself to others. I went into poses already feeling like I couldn’t do them or do them well.

It’s hard to hold a pose when you’re internal mantra is “I suck”. It’s hard to operate in the world, actually, if that’s what you’re hearing in your head.

As I wrote this post I went back to my mat 4 times to attempt to get into Crow. Each time I could only get my knees slightly on my upper arms. Once it comes to shifting my weight onto my arms and using my core- if that’s even what I am supposed to be doing- I freak out. I don’t trust myself to hold myself. I feel too heavy. I know I am too heavy. All I feel in that moment is panic and fat.

I thought maybe I’d feel better having written this but . . . I don’t. I’m trying to accept my limitations but not be defined by them but frankly, I am doing a really awful job at it. I don’t like being bad at things. I don’t like not succeeding. And most of all, I don’t like being fat. I’m sick of how I let it define me and create parameters for how I live my life.

I don’t know how to reset my brain to stop this way of thinking. I’ve trained it for 37 years. I have had thoughts of giving up on yoga. Maybe it’s not for me, not for fatties who have bellies that get in the way. I am so mad at myself for thinking that. I AM NOT A QUITTER. When it comes to every other aspect of my life, I don’t quit. But when it comes to me it’s an option? That’s some bullshit right there. Some real fucking bullshit.

My current inability to do Crow is a metaphor for how I approach my body, how I live in my body. I am emotionally abusive to my body and based on its size and shape, I have physically mistreated it as well. I have used my body as a scapegoat for years and as an outward sign of my self-belief that I am not worthy, am not good enough, and should be overlooked. I’m a good faker- I can put a stylish outfit together from meager offerings at department stores; smile, laugh and entertain, use my wits and sparkling personality to charm, fall back on my “pretty face” to distract enough to get by- but inside I feel those deep pangs of unworthiness and it’s painful. It’s painful to not accept yourself, to not love your body. To walk around in the world feeling like not enough is no way to live.

I am better than that.

I can DO better than that.

I WILL do better than that.

Just because that voice is familiar doesn’t mean what it says is true.

It’s time to tell myself something new. Something that is actually true.


25 thoughts on “Internal Mantra

  1. I don’t know if you’ll believe what I’m going to say, but I’ll say it anyway. Quitting yoga because you can’t get into one pose or another is not a good reason to quit. There are so many poses that I’ve attempted to do time and again (including crow) during that I just can’t do. There are people who are heavier than me weight wise and can twist into positions I can’t get into.

    We ALL have limitations and we do need accept them because we are ONLY human and we will never be able to do everything. It’s great to try, but sometimes it’s also good to accept our limits. But give up? No, no don’t give up on yoga just because of one, two or even three poses you can’t get into.

    And just one more thing: DON’T compare yourself to others. We are all unique and not the same.

  2. I struggle with these exact same issues every day of my life too. And to make it worse, I had a mother who didn’t understand why her child wasn’t thin…and she still doesn’t understand. But you ARE worth more and you DO deserve more – just keep telling yourself that every day. Challenge your negativity and meet it head on. Dismantle the negative arguments that your brain has been trained to throw out. Stand up against it and rail against it. Just please don’t give up.

  3. When you hear yourself talking negatively to yourself, tell yourself to STOP IT! Every time you say something negative, tell yourself 2 things that are positive. I know, it sounds silly. But actually? It works. I’ve been going down this road for a while. I still, daily, have to tell myself that I really AM okay. I am capable. I keep notes stuck to my bathroom mirror and around my computer monitor with positive things about me. Some days- I dont believe them. But I say them anyway. Outloud. Because I was told that it really does help, and you know? It does. Try it!

    You deserve to be happy, and mostly, you deserve to accept yourself as the awesome person you are! (You are pretty darn awesome!)

    As said above, everyone has limitations. Cant do the crow? Oh well. There are other poses I am sure you can and will do. Move on!… (but I’d try every now and then just because)… . Remember the whole handstand thing? The plank? You fretted about those too. But you can do them!! (you need to give yourself a chance.)

    Hang in there!

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I feel the same way. You aren’t alone, and the first step to changing something is identifying what needs to be changed. Admitting there is a problem.

    To be clear, the problem isn’t that you can’t do the crow, and doing the crow will not fix the underlying issue. The problem is changing your internal belief system.

    In some ways, you need to be more objective about yourself, and become your own best friend. All those people you love? None of them are perfect. But not being perfect doesn’t change how much you love them. Those things you say to yourself? You would never say to them to those you love. Nor would you accept someone else saying those kind of things to those you love.

    So, you need to get to know yourself and learn to love yourself just as you are, without any reservations. The way you love your friends. No more double standards (it’s ok for everyone else to not be perfect, but you’re supposed to be perfect? I don’t think so.)

    Good luck! Stay strong!

  5. I’m reading this and the tears well up and I hear the same message in my brain from years ago…and sometimes still.

    I have watched you shift and grow and push past your limits, knowing it is what you must do. And you have come so far. So far. I hope you will try to remember the growth, movement.

    “Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, ‘I have failed three times’, and what happens when he says, ‘I’m a failure.’” — S. I. Hayakawa

    I love you, my friend. I celebrate you in every shape, size, color, emotion…because I believe in your wholeness. I wish you could see what I see. I’m holding the mirror for you…


  6. It will get better! This too will pass. Only it sometimes feels like forever.. But I am very sure you will do this holy shitsana someday, and that slowly you will come to like all of you as you are.

    Anyways, thank you for sharing your experiences and feelings, good and bad and the inbetween!

    a hug from a habitual lurker

  7. Sizzle, I’ve been doing yoga since I was born (literally, my mom taught infant yoga) and at 28 there’s only been a handful of times I’ve been able to get into crow. I’m working on my yoga teacher certification and it still defeats me most of the time. Most of it is mental not physical. Only times I can get up into crow is when I manage to quiet my monkey mind enough to let my body flow into it. Sounds super hippy but best way I can describe it.
    copying the comment above,
    a hug from a habitual lurker.

  8. I don’t have any advice, really, other than to say I’ve been there. It’s really easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of negativity towards ourselves. I’m only slowly starting to appreciate my body and all it can do for me, but that’s with a steady stream of positive mantras all day long. And it doesn’t always work.

    I hear you, lady. You can definitely overcome this. You don’t suck.

  9. First and most importantly: You are beautiful exactly how you are. Who says your body isn’t perfect just the way it is? Why do you need to change?

    I totally get this post though. I am pretty awesome at being awful to myself too. I cheer on other people and would never ever be as cruel to other people as I am to myself but somehow I can’t help it. Unless I am consciously thinking “say positive things, not negative” my mind is on a continuous loop of horrible things about me that I should really make better. Should? Who says? Plenty of people love me just how I am, and plenty of people love you for just who you are, exactly as you are right this very second. There isn’t any need to change really, except the pressure I put on myself. If only I could get my mind to think that without me having to focus on it.

  10. You are powerful and you know it; that is beautiful. And that is all I want to say figuratively.

    Literally, you are not alone with crow and I FEEL you on letting thoughts hinge on the success of this one pose. So, I want to tell you how I got used to balancing in crow, because it wasn’t by attempting to pop my butt up just high enough four thousand times, over and over again. Get into the “start” position with your hands on the floor and your knees bent (now doesn’t that sound dirty?). 🙂 Put a pillow below where your head is, put two blocks or a couple thick books under each foot. Keep your toes on the blocks the entire time and just get used to that “balance” feeling of your knees near your arms. If something doesn’t feel right, move your arms further out or in. You are allowed to work around your own current, earthly limitations. We all do that every day, right?
    It was only by getting my core and whatever else used to that balance without the fear of crashing down on my only real asset (the brains) that I could practice my body into that inverted feeling. I’m a worrier, and I had visions of breaking my neck before I used a pillow and blocks at home. For me, it was fear I had to push out before I could even get used to the position, much less actually lifting my feet off the floor. I had to sit there, all crunched up and half upside-down, for a while before I realized, hey, this isn’t so bad.

  11. Hey Sizz!
    I can’t do crow for shit, but I’ve been told that one thing that helps is using a block in the pose. Basically, use it for your feet and stand on your tippy toes on the block while your hands are on the four and sort of use gravity to tip into the pose as you fold.
    Hang in there.
    The Girl With The Ginormous Boobs Who Often Suffocates When Holding Upside Poses In Yoga.

  12. Man, this post hits home as today we attempted crow pose 5 TIMES in my yoga class. This is in the span of an hour! And I friggin hate crow as I can’t really do it. So this was the worst.

    But you know what? Last week, for the first time in my LIFE, I did a headstand. Me, the girl who sits in child’s pose every time we have to do inversions and counts the seconds until we can do something else, I can do headstand. And now I love it and am trying to practice it daily.

    You will get there. Bit by bit, day by day. It’s called a “practice” for a reason. Just being there and breathing and attempting is actually doing something. You’re doing something. And you rock. Keep up the good OM.

    Also, to “girl with ginormous boobs” – good GOD, I can’t do plow pose well b/c I suffocate myself w/my breasts. Who the hell can do that pose w/o gasping for air???

  13. You know what’s great about all of this? Several of your ongoing goals/goals for 2011 will help you with all of this. You’ve talked about continuing and improving your yoga practice, losing the weight you don’t love carrying, etc. So when all that comes to be, this will ALL get easier. And in the meantime, remember that you’re on your way to even more amazing things — so if it’s your belly that’s bothering you, think, “this is the last day it will be exactly like this” because that’ll be true if you keep on your amazing path.

    Of course, it goes without saying that everyone who knows you thinks you’re gorgeous and amazing. You just need to get to the place where you believe that too.

  14. I’ve never really tried yoga, so I can’t comment on that aspect of your post, but I do know about negative self-talk. Working through my own negative self-talk is a daily struggle for me.

    I too am told that I’m pretty, that I’m wonderful, sweet, everyone loves and adores me, blah, blah, blah. That’s all lovely to hear, but I don’t always embrace the good compliments thanks to my sucky body image. Instead I let those go in one ear and out the other, grasp onto anything negative and define that as my “truth”.

    I have an INCREDIBLE boyfriend and the continual droning in my head of “you’re really not good enough for him / he deserves someone so much better than you” is sickening and at times, crippling. I try very hard to shut out those thoughts and remember that he chose ME. He loves ME. He thinks that I’M beautiful. It’s a slow process, but I’m getting better at telling myself that I’m beautiful and I’m very loved. I’m still working to repair/improve myself – physically, mentally and emotionally – and it’s a daily process.

    You, my dear, ARE amazing too 🙂 Your blogs are such an inspiration to so many. When those thoughts come into your head, tell yourself that it’s complete bullshit. We should not let our size define us – we’re so much more than that.

  15. dude, crow is hard. only about 1/3 of my classmates can do it.

    that old saying “we are our own worst enemy” is so true. one thing i really hate about myself is that i’m shy. when i react shyly or timidly in a situation, i will spend a good day kicking myself, wishing i hadn’t acted that way. this comes from growing up with a mom who thought of shyness as a fault, who always wished i was more outgoing and outspoken.

    lately, i’ve been trying to accept my shyness as part of who i am, but it’s been really tough. just yesterday i was beating myself up for letting someone question a decision i made and not being more outspoken. what helps sometimes is imagining myself saying, “oh well, that’s the way i am,” and not caring. i keep imagining it over and over, and eventually i start to feel that way.

    it’s still incredibly tough though.

  16. It’s times like this I like to think of all the other amazing things my body allows me to do. But I do get stuck in the “why can’t I xyz” thought from time to time.

    You’ll get there 🙂

  17. The problem with being well educated is that you know low self-esteem is no good. Then you have low self-esteem ABOUT HAVING LOW SELF-ESTEEM. So if you can at least free yourself from the meta-self-hatred, you’re halfway there (I say as I continue to hate myself for hating myself).

    Also, crow pose is kinda dorky-looking.

  18. Girl, crow is like IMPOSSIBLE for me too (especially now, all pregnant and shit, but normally too). I just don’t practice regularly enough to have the strength. How often do you practice? I know your post is more than about physical strength and more about self-esteem and, trust me, I get you on both accounts. Hang in there and be gentle with yourself.

  19. If it’s any consolation I can’t do crow pose either. Head stands are very hard for me too. I lack core strength also. I don’t trust my arms to hold my entire body, because frankly they can’t. But quit yoga? Never! It helps me in spiritual and mental ways beyond the physical. For me it’s not about being the bets in the class, it’s about what I get from the class, what works for me and where I am at at the moment. Don’t quit yoga Sizz, no matter how hard it is, it’s benefits surpass any physical aspects, just look at how it’s making you reflect on how you’re treating yourself. It’s magical, just embrace it where you are, and let the rest go.

  20. freakin’ crow…you can do it…just like the handstand. I know you can get up, there is just a little seed of fear that keeps you form kicking all the way!
    I totally feel that in class too, a sense of failure that grows as the class moves on. It ain’t what yoga is about, we need to kick ourselves in the head.
    heart you!

  21. Its not just you – I found this site because I CANNOT do crow. I think its because im too heavy(fat). But I will try now and then – and the rest of the time, just enjoy the rest of my beginning yoga class. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I know in the moment when everyone else is getting it – its tough. But think of how accomplished you feel – that’s what I do and its all good! Its for me – no one else.

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