How To Avoid Feeling Self-Conscious In Yoga Class
Great Scott! That hurts. The alarm sounded throughout my body as my attention went directly to my inner thighs. I thought my tendons were going to snap as I tried to lower my chest towards my right knee.
If I’d had a sense of humor in that moment I’d have tried to pluck the tendon like a guitar string. I’m sure my yoga teacher would have loved to hear the sweet sound of my pain.
But My Physical Pain Was Only Half Of It
I knew I was a yogi. I’d been doing yoga asanas since I was just a child. Never mind that I had let my practice slip during the past year. I knew I was good. Heck, I even used to demonstrate publicly how different positions were supposed to look.
So imagine my embarrassment when unexpectedly my wide leg spread reached only just a few feet wide.
I Could Barely Even Lean Towards My Knee
I knew beginners that could do it better. In fact, I looked around the room and saw that I had the tightest legs of anyone. And I just wanted to become invisible and slip out quietly before the class was done.
I wanted to practice on my own and come back next year to show them all. I couldn’t have them thinking I was just like them.
I knew it would kill me if I had to bear the encouragement they’d likely all be giving me. You know, the way they clap for people who come in last. Heck no, I had a reputation to uphold.
But I wasn’t going to walk out with my tail between my legs. No, that would be worse. So I had to stick it out. And worse yet, I’d paid for a month of yoga. I couldn’t back out now.
My Pride Had Put Me In A Bind
That’s what made me bring this concept to The Work. I’d hit the wall, and couldn’t see a way out.
But no way out is “good” for me. These days, when I’m faced with stressful situations, I actually get kind of get excited. What will I learn from this one when I take it to The Work?
It Was Easy To Identify The Stressful Thoughts To Question With The Work
“My thighs are unacceptably tight for yoga. I need my inner thighs to cooperate with me.” These were the stressful thoughts that came to mind.
I took each one and had a closer look, and I found that they were just not true. “Unacceptably tight for yoga,” are you kidding? Why would I need yoga if I naturally had super flexibility?
How cool is it, that I just found out what I need to work on in my practice? This tightness may even draw the teacher’s attention to help me. And my “humanness” will make it possible to have rapport with my classmates. Little did I know, they weren’t even paying attention to my plight.
“My Thighs Should Cooperate With Me?”
Let’s turn that one around. “I should cooperate with my inner thighs.” Yes, that makes more sense. When I think my thighs should be more flexible than they are, I push them too hard and could easily injure myself.
In fact, I feel much more relaxed inside when I cooperate with where they are. And ironically, they’re much more responsive to my efforts.
Gradually I Accepted My Reality
My thighs are what they are. They should be tight because I haven’t done much yoga recently, and I’ve never really stretched this area that much. The Work helped me become a beginner once again, a student, not an example. And as a student I was open to the learning I could get.
I learned humility and gained flexibility that month. And I continue to practice this posture every day. It’s been five months, and I can now almost touch my chest to my knee. But that didn’t come from forcing it. It came from cooperating and accepting.
But Couldn’t You Have Gotten Through This Without The Work?
Of course. Life is set up perfectly. Eventually, I would have figured out to avoid the emotional and physical pain and be gentle with myself.
But The Work is a way to speed it up. I get to see things quickly when I work a stressful concept. I see how it hurts me when I believe it. And I see how freeing it would be without it. Then I see if the opposite might actually be more true for me.
This is a short cut out of pain. Within an hour’s time of doing The Work of Byron Katie, I’d overcome my embarrassment and had gained patience and understanding of my tight thighs. When I came back to class the next day, it was with a lighter spirit.
And this is what kept me coming back with enthusiasm day after day, month after month.
Stress Can Come From Anywhere
A tight thigh from yoga is sometimes all it takes to set off the stress reaction inside of me. Taking the time to question my stressful thoughts helps me see around the stress and get back to my life.
The Work makes it simple for me to find the stress and question it.
Looking back, I’m grateful now that the tendons of my inner thighs called my attention. And I’m grateful that I didn’t try to force them. Now I’ve learned to cooperate with them and let them show me what they need.
Find something that’s not earth-shatteringly important, but which is stressful for you. Find something that’s more a part of mundane life, and do the work on it today. You’ll be surprised how little things can hold you up, and how easily they can be turned around.
Todd Smith is a facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. To get started with The Work, a facilitator can help you get the most out of this simple process. You can schedule an appointment with Todd here.
I Hadn’t Done The Work Much, So It Was Tough To Commit To It
One day I was questioning the work and asking for advice. Someone had told me “I’ve had victories with The Work so I can trust it.” I realized I was attracted to the work but that I hadn’t had victories. The next thing I did was to reach out to Todd. Having Todd to support me through a lovely, ongoing, slow unfolding allowed me to find those victories.
Schedule an appointment with Todd here.
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