It has been a while since I have been able to take a yoga workshop and spend time under the instructorship of a seasoned instructor and just learn. So when my friend Armen of Pack Your Mat let me tag along to join him at the IG Getaway in Santa Monica I was stoked.
The day was started ripe with anticipation. We arrived early and poked around at the vendors. I must admit, my schedule has been crazy and I haven’t hit my yoga mat in a while so I was a little nervous but I was ready to discover new things.
My first workshop was with famed yogi Mackenzie Miller. I intentionally choose to attend the Backbend Workshop since I struggle immensely with any sort of backbend. Immediately, I liked Mackenzie. She’s a teeny little powerhouse who is funny, quirky, and incredibly knowledgeable. She is down to earth and grounded despite her 157k followers on Instagram. Mackenzie had us introduce ourselves to someone we didn’t know in the class and for me that helped decrease my anxiety. Not knowing what class would entail, I set my mat to the side and near the back. Everyone seemed to know one another and seemed at ease. With their six packs taunting me in their cropped yoga tops I felt exposed and uncomfortable. I was wearing my favorite pants, my 2-year-old Lulus and an American Apparel tank but my outfit clearly wasn’t stylish enough to be considered cool [I guess it’s a good thing I have my hair going for me]. Class hadn’t even started yet and I already felt demoralized. There were men there, but I didn’t even notice. My eyes and brain only ruminated on the long lean limbs of these instayogis and all I could think was I don’t belong here and “Shit. I can’t believe I let myself think that even for even a second I belonged here.”
The warm up was vigorous. My muscles were shaking. No stranger to sweat and hard work, I relished this challenge. Then the workshop portion started. We moved through a series of backbends—each completely and utterly inaccessible to me. I felt an overwhelming sense of shame and self-hatred. I started to shut down and knew the eagerness and smiles had faded and was now being replaced by rage. The darkness had crept in and I was assaulting myself—I’m too fat, I don’t practice enough, I’m a bad instructor, my body is just wrong, why did I come here…and the thoughts went on and on. They just didn’t end.
Now, in the interest of transparency, here’s a little aside: I am working through some shit at the moment. Recently, I have allowed my confidence to become completely shaken by some feedback I received regarding my teaching and style and I can’t seem to move past it. I have been swimming in self-doubt and insecurity and to top it all off, since I have been playing soccer again I can barely walk. The pain in my right knee is intolerable and I am panicking.
With my compromised confidence and the constant worrying about my knee, an intense backbend workshop literally brought everything to the surface and I felt myself crying. I’ve cried in yoga before but not like today. This was an angry cry and I didn’t like it.
I coveted the skinny girl in front of me who not only wore white yoga pants, but she looked amazing in them. I envied the girl in the sports bra with the subtly toned abs and her effortless handstand. Finally, I just sat on my mat, observing and then taking notes:
I feel really bad about myself here
Out of my element
Out of my body and unable to do what I will it to do
I feel like I’m a prisoner of my physical self and I’ve condemned myself to thinking I’m worthless because I can’t do these poses
Is this what yoga has come to, or shall I say, is this how my yoga has evolved? I had no reason to get so upset. After all, this was their practice and well, this was mine…Simply, I teach yoga but certainly don’t have the time or make the the time for my practice anymore. I don’t have a Guru, teacher I would follow into fire, or even a place that I practice at regularly. My practice has been reduced to when it’s convenient and that needs to change immediately.
Conversely, as a result of being a multi-faceted fitness person, I don’t just do yoga. I also cycle, run, lift weights, wear heels to work all day, and when I can I roll out (which is never but I did do it once this week!). Because I have so many fitness passions, I don’t practice yoga as much as I did before I became an instructor, but I am very active in so many other arenas nonetheless. Unfortunately, my endeavors on a treadmill, on a bike, and lifting weights makes me classically tighter than many other yoga instructors. Not to mention, many yoga instructors are former dancers, and well, if you have ever seen me attempt to catch a beat you sure as hell know I was never a dancer. My yoga instructor friends, teachers in classes, and even Mackenzie in yesterday’s workshop remark[ed] about my tightness and lack of mobility in my scapula and thoracic region. And while this truth is obvious, I know it and it continues to hurt my ego.
Why can’t I be more flexible in my spine? Why can’t my knee stop locking, popping, or constantly hurting? Why can’t I stick a handstand? So many ‘Why’s’ flooded my thoughts that I concluded that my yoga was ugly.
I mean, it had to be, right?
I can’t backbend.
My stomach has rolls.
I’m short. Very short.
My thighs rub together.
I can’t wear white anything on my bottom half.
And I only have 1,228 Instagram followers.
Immersed in a bustling yoga scene of instayogi’s from all over the world AKA Los Angeles and a room full of teachers, I felt unprepared and alone. I felt confused about my place in all this and where I fit into this community. Finally, I concluded that my yoga is ugly.
Egos and handstands.
Midriffs and girls who practice with their hair down and make up (Hell I wish, I just sweat SO much).
Beautiful people, each more attractive and hip than the next.
Posses of the cool kids.
As an outsider, I think much of what I experienced yesterday really hit me because it was like I was that girl on the bus going to school again. The fat kid with no friends, mercilessly made fun of by the cool kids because I was fat and uncool. So much of what we feel when we feel it is a result of our past and my past is filled with pain. For me, I was transported to that time when I was the kid who didn’t get included, never got the invite to the cool kids’ parties, and simply dealt with her emotions by eating them. So last night, I ate my feelings and sadness away in a gluten free pizza. So what I am saying is YEARS later, I guess I still haven’t learned how to cope with my feelings of inadequacy.
I need to believe I am worthy of yoga and resolve to love my body. How does one even do that? How does one receive the love and confidence one so desperately needs and wants that validates one as worthy?
Though yesterday was filled with sweat, tears, and doubt, I do not regret attending for one second. I learned a lot about myself; had my ego majorly checked in class by being out-practiced by pretty much everyone, and I put myself out there.
So for now, I guess my yoga is ugly. I am just going to have to accept that at this moment this is where I am and am going to work on meeting myself with kindness.
Right now it’s like this.