Good At Yoga

Since my “graduation” from teacher training a week ago, I’ve gratefully accepted congrats from friends and colleagues. Very  heartwarming. However, this exchange inevitably leads to, “I would like to do yoga, but I’m not good at it.” Le sigh. But, it’s my task, nee mission, to let people know that asana, advanced asana, is only a tiny part of this massive moving organism that is yoga. Unfortunately, I’m still guilty of wishing I was “good at yoga.”

Case in point, I was in a particularly challenging class the other night. My normal vinyasa 2-3 class, with this particular teacher, is usually only very fast-paced, ashtanga-style, which presents its own set of challenges  when my old rotator cuff injury sparks up sometime after my tenth chaturanga. This class, however,  was very top-loaded with arm balance variations, forearm balances, handstands, full iterations of eka pada rajakapotasana, “advanced poses” etc…All well and good, but here’s where my ego gets in the way.

I can’t do a handstand. I can’t do the full form of eka pada rajakoptasana, there are a lot of things that I can’t do (yet?) And it still makes me a little sad.  For a long time, I felt like it was the one barrier between me and full yoga teacher-hood. I wanted to dive into the world of yoga teaching a few years ago, but I was worried that I wasn’t “good at yoga.” At that point, asana was my main focus (and I know I’m not alone!) All I saw was photos of yogis who were, as I imagined, “good at yoga.” Fortunately, over the years, the more I studied and made pranayama and meditation a more substantial part of my practice, I realized that asana wasn’t the end-all-be-all. Even more reassuring, I have had the good fortune to work with teachers who inform the students that there is no “good at yoga.” That you could spend the entire ninety minutes of class, in child’s pose on your mat and you are still practicing yoga!

A few days after that class, I brought my handstand conflict up to one of my yoga teacher friends (ooh, I love that I can call them yoga teachers instead of yoga teacher trainees!!) This particular yogini informed me that she’s been working on hers for THREE YEARS (this woman is quite adept at her physical practice, so the knowledge that she didn’t just kick up one day was very reassuring.) And then she reminded me that it’s the practice, the journey, that’s important.

Of course, the other extremely crucial element that I somehow manage to forget is that I actually have to PUT IN THE WORK. I’m not quite sure where I got the idea that by practicing vinyasa for a few years, I would all of a sudden be the next Kathryn Budig, who looks as comfortable on her hands as I feel on my feet. I actually have to work on the damn poses and if I don’t, I can’t feel sad that I’m not rocking pincha mayurasana in the middle of the room. I’m a quick one, right?

That said, while I still battle my ego, at least I am aware of the absurdity. I do feel that it is my duty to remind myself and others that there is no “good at yoga.”

I’m doing yoga in my dreams

alarm clocks kill dreams

I’d like to stay dreaming just a little longer…

I’ve suffered from insomnia for as long as I can remember. Not the kind where I can’t fall asleep, but it seems that I can’t STAY asleep. I’ve gone through periods of months where I’ve woken up every night at 2 a.m., finally falling asleep just in time for my alarm to go off. To further compound this problem, I’m a ridiculously light sleeper. Tiny bit of light from the alarm clock? I swear I can see it through my eyelids. Dust settling on the nightstand? Yep, I can hear it.

While I see no major bright side to this situation, I have to say I’ve noticed an interesting side effect. When I’m finally able to return to sleep, my dreams get weird. My dreams are normally weird,  but these last minutes-before-waking dreams are nuts. I’ve also taken the time, in those lying awake hours to mentally run through a yoga class sequence…the alignment cues I’d give, the order in which I’d arrange the asana, the filler explanations. In a way, it’s kind of neat, in another, I just want to sleep, already!

That brings me to this morning’s pre-alarm clock dream. I was doing handstands. Lots of them, and very easily. In normal life, I cannot do an unsupported handstand and it’s been years since I’ve even kicked up to the wall (I have some unconquered fear of being upside down. I’m cool with headstands, but handstand makes me nervous. My palms sweat just thinking about it.) These handstand dreams have recurred with greater frequency the past few months. I’ve probably had 5 or 6 handstand dreams in that time period. I think these dreams are the greatest dreams I could have. I need to figure out a way to channel the confidence and ease I have in these dreams to real life. I love dreaming about yoga.