Gotta admit it, when I first started yoga, I wanted to be perfect. To be perfect, I needed to be thin, happy, flexible, and have a dogmatic aversion to gluten and fast food. And in my usual perfectionist, overachieving fashion, I opted to apply for the four month volunteer program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, instead of taking a beginner class. I was ready for the fast track and I was desperate. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship that I wasn’t ready to leave (yet) and he wanted me to be thin. In his words, “I needed to lose 20 pounds and smile more” and a large part of me agreed with him. There was also a smaller, tender part of me that didn’t agree with him, but still wanted to be at that yoga center for reasons I couldn’t yet understand. So I went. Packed up my life, left everything that I knew, so that I could be perfect.
I’m not sure what I was imagining the road to perfection would look like, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t expecting it to include getting into savasana, corpse pose, for the first time and sobbing like a baby. My yoga mat was drenched with tears and the emotions that I had tried hard to bury were creating an internal earthquake.
That wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to feel. I wanted to sun salute my way to being anyone other than myself. I wanted the change that all those yogis promised me.
I thought that first class was just a fluke. So I went again. Stood in mountain with my arms up. I built the pose up from the ground, finally felt the strength in my feet, and again began to cry. Silent, warm tears fell onto my strong shoulders. Those emotions swirled again when I stepped back into warrior I. That small, tender part of me loved the beauty of my crying warrior. But my mind, dear God, my mind…. My mind realized my mission to be someone else was clearly an impossible one and it was in panic mode.
Good thing my yoga teacher reminded me to breathe. To watch the sensations and to be curious about them.
“Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.”
— Bhagavad Gita
If I had heard that quote before I started on this yoga journey, I would have run the other way. But by the time I understood that yoga had nothing to do with perfection, it was too late. This yoga thing isn’t about escaping life or yourself. Not about escaping your inflexible hip and forcing it into some pose. It’s about returning home to yourself, again and again, and making space for what you find there.
By the time I had realized this, it was too late to run. The transformation had already begun, and I was waist deep in a process that called me to my mat, to my Self, with curiosity and compassion. Just to see what was swirling there. With time and compassion, that small, tender part of me, my authentic Self, grew stronger. And I never lost those 20 pounds.
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
About the author
Marsha Philitas is a life coach for women and LGBT folk who are ready to fall in love with themselves, their lives and their purpose. Get coached and get the support you need at www.marshaphilitas.com.
Photo credit: Country Mile by Nicholas_T on Flickr