It’s really hard to believe that it’s been 40 fucking days already.
Like I’ve said all along, I’m amazed that I have made it this far. While there have been days where I’ve barely squeezed in 5 minutes, I’ve still managed to do at least a little bit each and every day.
Since I haven’t done a reflection post in a while, I thought I would take some time to think about what I have learned in the last forty days from my yoga practice. While it’s been a whirlwind of a journey and I really don’t feel that different yet, I don’t think I’ll really ever get what I’m looking for from this practice if I don’t take the time to sit down and fucking think about it. So, to honor my forty days, here are four lessons that I’ve learned from yoga:
1. Life is never fucking easy, but we can either lean in and embrace it or just give up.
A lot of yoga emphasizes this idea of “leaning into the pain”. Back when I was doing yoga only somewhat rarely, I really hated this phrase because it didn’t make any god damn sense to me. Why the fuck would I try and force myself to do something that was painful when I could just chill out in child’s pose when I wanted? It took me a while to start understanding that all this “lean into the pain” shit was actually code for “embrace the pain. It means that you’re alive and doing something good for you”.
In just 40 days, I’ve come to learn that pain isn’t bad. It’s actually quite beautiful. The pain is what shows you that you are working hard toward something and trying to become a better person. I’m starting to accept the pain of my poses as simply part of the process. While it might be uncomfortable to do the half splits, the fact that I can sort of get one leg off the ground while balancing the rest of my body on a block honestly a fucking gift that so many other people don’t have the luxury of having. I’m thankful for the pain because it’s symbolic of the fact that I am here doing something good for myself.
I’ve also begun to bring this lesson off the mat and have started embracing the things that make me the most uncomfortable. I’ve learned that these “edges” as one of my teachers likes to call them, are where I can truly marvel and the shit that my body can do, whether it’s physically, mentally, or emotionally. They are also never that bad; in my practice if I am pushing myself on the mat, I’ll push breath into the area that’s feeling uncomfortable and it automatically makes the pain more bearable. I’m working to do the same thing off the mat: breathe life into the areas of my life that are painful in order to ease the pain and explore the reasons behind it.
2. Yoga truly isn’t a competition (a.k.a. check your fucking ego at the door).
I know what you’re thinking. You’re sitting there reading this going “this girl is an idiot. Every yoga class I’ve gone to I’ve felt so uncomfortable being next to some lady who can wrap her legs around her head and I hate every minute of it.”
Trust me, I completely and totally feel you. I’ve definitely been in that situation before (even just today, actually) where the person next to you is clearly so much better and you feel like a weenie in comparison. It sucks and is discouraging, and it turns a lot of people away.
I was expecting to be able to do some crazy shit after 40 days of somewhat intense practicing but it turns out I was wrong. In fact, I’m really not that much better at the actual physical practice than I was when I started. My fingers still are the only part of my hand that can touch the ground, I can barely grab my feet when I’m doing a sitting forward fold, and I still can’t do a damn inversion. I’m noticing little changes every day, but on the grander scale not that much has altered in my practice.
What this has taught me though is that those people in your class who are doing some nasty stuff have to have been practicing for literal years to get to that point. Once I began to understand how truly hard it is to contort your body in those positions and look good doing it, I stopped comparing myself to them because they’re just in a different league of competition. At that point it might even be another sport. The only barometer I have for myself is me. I can look to others to see where I want to be and find inspiration, but I can’t compare myself to someone who is 6 years ahead of me in something that I’m just starting.
This has been a comforting lesson for me as I begin my career with a fast-paced internship. = I have been feeling inadequate compared to my boss who is literally 8 years older than me and a completely different person. His writing is better than mine. His rate of production is higher than mine. His knowledge is more than mine. I’ve been frustrated because in my head I’ve been thinking “I have a liberal arts degree I just graduated college I know how to write” blah blah fucking blah.
Well, or course he is better at digital marketing than I am. He’s been doing it full time for the past 8 years and is the human incarnation of the Energizer bunny. He simply has had more time to practice and get better at doing the things he is doing. Literally nothing can compare to years of experience, even my degree from a fantastic school where I wrote CONSTANTLY. I’ve spent the last 22 years of my life learning how to write one way specifically and now I’m throwing myself into a completely different style of writing and research and it’s going to take me some time to figure it out.
Rather than trying to compare myself to him, I’m starting to simply view him as a master that has a shitload to teach me from years of trial and error, just like the woman who was next to me in my class this morning. I can’t let my ego get in the way of what I want to learn or else I’m never going to learn it.
3. My body is pretty cool. (CW: body image)
Since I have joined the studio in my town, I’ve gone to an hour-long class almost every single day, whether I want to or not. The only reasons I have skipped a day has been because of time constraints and things I can’t control.
Part of the reason I started doing yoga was for the workout part of it. I’ve been struggling with some pretty severe body dysmorphia since October, which has been a weird change of pace for me because I have never really felt uncomfortable in my own skin before this year. I would like to note that as of right now, I have not been diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder or any other serious medical condition, but am rather using the term to refer to crippling feelings of self-loathing regarding my appearance. This is something I am planning on seeing a doctor about, but I do not want to minimize or trivialize anyone with severe illnesses in any way.
Doing yoga intensely hasn’t changed my body that much in 40 days, but I am starting to notice some differences (though they also probably have to do with the fact that I’ve effectively given up drinking for the last three weeks). My stomach is getting flatter. My posture is improving. I’m getting a little bit stronger each day.
The biggest change that I’ve noticed though, which has really only started occurring in the past week or so, is that I don’t look in the mirror and see something I hate as often as I did before all of this began. I think this is largely due to a mental shift rather than a physical one. Again, 40 days isn’t that long of a time, but I am beginning to view my body more as a vehicle to do the things I want to do rather than my defining characteristic. It feels great to be slowly reclaiming my sense of confidence that has been robbed of me for the past year, so great that I’ve caught myself crying about it several times in the past few weeks.
4. Change happens slowly.
I’m going to be completely honest here: this is the first time in my life that I have ever made a commitment to do something every single day and stuck with it for longer than two weeks. I’m damn proud of myself for making it 40% of the way through my challenge, and I think it will give me momentum in other areas of my life as well.
Like I previously mentioned, I thought I was going to be a yoga pro by the time I finished this challenge. I’m realizing that that’s not going to happen because 100 days really isn’t that long of a time period. I’m going to get better (mentally, physically, and in yoga) through small steps every single day rather than huge bursts of energy followed by periods of doing nothing.
With all aspects of my life, I need to learn how to be patient. I’m fresh and green in the world and I really don’t know how it operates. I can’t expect for the way I’ve navigated the past 22 years to fly anymore because I’m at a different ballgame now. I need to relax, remember that it’s okay, and learn the rules of the game slowly before trying to force my way through something. I need to heed the advice that I’m constantly giving other people: sit back, relax, and learn through observation.
Yoga has been teaching me a lot, but mostly I’m learning how little I know about the world.
I feel like I’m entering the third round of puberty in my life (the first being actual puberty, the second being first semester of freshman year of college, and the third being the early-to-mid-twenties). The most distinctive thing about all three of these time periods is that I felt like I knew everything when really I didn’t have a damn clue about anything and was just self-obsessed and trying to meet cute boys. In order to learn from my mistakes I have to remember that fact as a 22 year old. I’m still dumb and young (though I’m not presently chasing any boys). This transition into adulthood is going to be painfully awkward, but it’ll be really fun along the way.
So here’s to 40 more days of learning and trusting myself to be better. We’ll see where the next 6 weeks take me!