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Competitive yoga

I’ve started going to yoga classes several times a week again.  Part of me is kind of appalled that this is newsworthy, as yoga has been a really important thing in my life for about a decade now, but the last year has been busy and finding classes that worked with my new kid-responsible schedule was difficult.    But that’s a bunk reason to not do something that I really enjoy, so I’ve rescheduled when I go to the gym to match up with when the yoga classes are offered there.

One of the things about me is that I am not remotely athletic; I’m not even distantly related to the second-cousin of natural athletic ability.  I was the kid that was picked last in gym and for some pretty good reasons.  My vision sucks, which makes sports with balls not a very good match.  Other kids figured this out pretty quickly.

When I started taking yoga, all of the above was true.  Then I had a teacher that came from the ballet world and she described what our bodies were supposed to be doing in a way that actually made sense to me.   Yoga requires a very different way of moving than that which Western bodies are used to doing.  It has a distinct learning curve, as your body strengthens and your flexibility increases.  I was in no way naturally good at it, but I was fascinating by the dance of it, the movement and the flow of breath.  I kept going back.  I kept practicing.  And, after a few months, I had a form in the mirror that I was really, really proud of, because I finally had an athletic control of my own body.  Yoga makes me feel strong and, in some ways, beautiful.  The poses, when done well, are visible representations of strength.

And it’s peaceful.  When I leave a yoga class, I find that I am kinder, more open and more accepting of people.  I leave filled with more loving-kindness than when I entered.  My teachers talk about things like gratitude, accepting ourselves for who we are and accepting others.  To truly practice yoga, you must also practice things like giving up judgement and criticism.  You are meant to accept your body the way it is today and to work with the things you have today.  These are brilliant lessons for real actual life.

Except, of course, it’s not easy to drop your ego in favor of the good of the community.  I was astounded by the negativity of my own brain in my first class back – I was weirdly competitive, despite practicing a non-competitive exercise.  I was not accepting, I was judgmental.  All of which misses the point entirely, but I was unable to drop my judgement of my own abilities, which were not up to the same level of performance as I’d managed when I was practicing yoga regularly.

By the end of the class, I’d pointed myself back in the right direction, with a solid reminder of why I do yoga in the first place.  Yoga makes me like people.  It’s a better place to be.  I am really glad to be back.

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