- Listen to the dialogue not the teacher. (I think we may already have covered this.) Can I keep breathing through everything, including my emotions?
- I am going to ask you to visualise this one with your mind’s eye: *this* is yoga, *this* is waiting at a bus stop. Can I stop fidgeting completely between standing postures?
- There are times when my reflection in the mirror disgusts me still. Can I fall more deeply in love with my own reflection and understand my body as a miracle?
- I can’t do this but I’m doing it anyway. Can I take my faith in this process to the other mechanics and paths in my life?
- I’ve come to accept that 9 times out of 10 my mind will give up before my body does. Can I train my mind to trust and follow my body?
- Lastly, can I forget about setting myself a load of pious challenges and have some fun celebrating my achievements so far? I’ve been to class six times in my new studio now and only just realised there is no clock in the studio and I don’t miss it. Yeah, baby.
We are well accustomed to hearing in class that it’s normal for postures to bring up different emotions; to be taken by surprise by emotions – and the advice I have always tried to heed is that I should not fight them but rather acknowledge them and let them go. By tasting what emotions my practice brings up for me on any given day and by relinquishing it I can help myself let go of the stresses and traumas held in the tissues of my body.
But what if “what my practice gives me today” is pain? We’re told don’t push through pain. But what about the emotions that the pain brings us? I think I am realising over the past few days that there is as much emotion in pain as there is in a stretch or a compression or a tourniquet release. Why this should be a huge revelation to me, I have no idea, as if you just think about it for roughly 40 seconds you realise that this is totally logical.
I heard a lot of interesting things in class yesterday. Teacher started by giving us a slight scolding about leaving the room during practice. It seems that the studio is getting a “reputation” (what? who cares? doesn’t the whole “reputation” concept appeal to ego?) for people leaving the room during class. I have to say I have been to class there five times now and haven’t noticed that happening. Whatevs. But the interesting thing comes next, teacher said that – I’m paraphrasing – many people, especially in the West, go through their lives never hearing the word “no”, so to hear “no, you’re not allowed to leave the hot room” can be the biggest challenge of all. I thought that was really interesting.
Class got underway and a couple of people were sitting down before warm up postures ended. Teacher said “if you are sitting out, are you focusing on your breath? Are you judging yourself? Or are you filled with love for yourself? We all love you so you should love you, too. You’re doing great.” And I thought, wow, that is awesome. That’s so awesome, truly. Sit out if you want, focus on your breath, don’t judge yourself, know that we love you. I thought, this guy is amazebags.
Then we got to tree and my back pain kicked in as it has been doing so I had to sit that out. Then we got to tortoise and I couldn’t do the sit up and I ended up sitting out the rest of the class til spine twist.
Now, bear with me ‘cos this is just how my head works, I knew I would have to sit out some floor series so I deliberately went straight to the back row that class. I’m already self-conscious because I’m new to the studio and I’m overweight. And I always think that when I can’t do a posture or have trouble with my back and sit out that people think it’s because I’m fat. Or, I should say “fat” because whilst a part of me self-identifies as “fat”, there is another part of me that self-identifies as “Helena Christensen”. I also think that when I don’t have a date on a Saturday night (a.k.a. Saturday night) or don’t get that last job I interviewed for, that people think it’s because I’m “fat”. “Fat” gets a great deal of blame in this house. Just so you know. Or hadn’t worked that out for yourself. If you hadn’t, it’s probably because you’re fat.
So there’s me, fat Helena Christensen, laying on my fat back with bent fat knees in no small amount of fat discomfort with fat tears coursing down my fat face, focusing on my fat-person breath in order to quiet down the self-hate whilst the rest of the thin class is releasing thin emotions in thin camel. And teacher says “if you’ve been sitting out of postures, try and get back in, think of the group energy. This is bikram hot yoga; you’re not lying on the deck of Daddy’s yacht.” And, without losing a second of my inhale-for-six nor moving a muscle, I fly into a RAGE.
No offence but you’re an idiot if you think for one SECOND that if my Daddy (or Mummy. Sexist.) 0wned a yacht I would be caught DEAD within 500 miles of smelly London Bridge or London for that matter let alone you and your SMUG yoga class. If there is ever a yacht in my family you will know that there was one HELL of a fight and I went down swinging because that money should be spent on buying ME a house in Oahu which I only DESERVE. And what happened to “we love you” by the way? We only love the WIMPS that sit down before the end of warm up? Cos that makes sense. Yeah, I believe it was Buddha who taught us to have compassion only for those who can’t do the easy bits. You hideous person. That’s it, screw you, there’s absolutely no way I’m getting up now. Even if you HAD asked at the start of class if anyone was working with an injury or condition (which you hadn’t) and even if you DO walk over and see if I’m ok (which you won’t) there’s no way I want to be a part of YOUR group energy now, thanks all the same. AND your tattoos are ugly. I’m in pain, you DICK.
It took me 24 hours of being offended and angry to figure out I wasn’t angry at him, I was angry at the pain. Which was stopping me from practicing and making me feel even more self-conscious. I didn’t even see his tattoos.