What makes it so hard to get to practice yoga? I mean, what is hard about getting to the mat? It seems simple enough.... roll out the mat and practice. Or even simpler, forego the mat and just practice! And yet, it seems more complex than that.
Prior to taking a public class, I sporadically practiced at home with a DVD. At that time, it just seemed like stretching; there was no community, no real teacher who could help me learn and grow with eyes and hands on, no philosophy shared, just the poses. I didn’t know it then, but the heart of yoga was missing and it wasn’t really exciting. Thus, I’m not sure I was all that interested in getting to the mat. Perhaps I wasn’t ready.
When I decided I wanted to take a public class, I attended with a friend. I was scared. Having been a fitness instructor for fourteen years at the time, I felt I had to “perform” well in the class. I think I feared that not doing well (whatever that means) would demonstrate my inadequacies in the fitness realm. Thanks to my friend, I made it to class and loved it! I felt truly relaxed and calm, something I hadn’t really felt before. I couldn’t wait to go back! I started practicing regularly from that day forward.
Now, after practicing for years, I’ve noticed the challenge is different than it was. In the early days after that first class, it was new and exciting and with my curiosity peaked, I enthusiastically attended classes, never once having to motivate myself to hit the mat.
And then something shifted. Something both troublesome and amazing at the same time. Yoga became work. Some of this work is the expected effort needed both for the physicality of asana practice and for the energy growth and shifts can require. But I have come to notice the real culprit, at least for now, seems to be an attachment to a result, or way of being, practicing, moving, etc..... almost a whole new image as a yoga teacher that needs to be maintained and fueled. Of course, this is the ego coupled with attachment showing up on the mat and even on my way to the mat. A desire to be able to do all of the poses well and practice for hours every single day, sometimes shows up and creates an imaginary obstacle course between me and my mat.
And so, I could try to fight this. That is, battle the ego and shame myself for attaching to results (especially in yoga), thus encouraging the continuation of this cycle. Or, I can lean in. I can embrace this part of myself that wants to be perfect, understanding that it often comes from an underlying fear of being inadequate and even unlovable. I can hold that part of myself with compassion and love. And then my whole body, my entire Being, softens. I feel less pressure to execute everything perfectly and instead I feel empowered. I feel empowered to align with my priorities, to enjoy my practice and the learning it brings. The interesting thing is, this shifts the journey to my mat from a complex course of inner obstacles to pure simplicity: just roll out the mat and notice what happens.