Introspection After a Good/Bad Yoga Session

I’m trying to treat myself better.

This means a lot of things, but there are some consistent themes in life for me.

I make the same New Year’s resolution every year: treat yourself better. This means a lot of things. Eating better. Working out more. Being nice to myself.

When I go to yoga, I set the same intention each time: bring nothing and take nothing. By this, I mean keep the BS that happens outside of yoga off the mat, and leave any BS that happens in yoga on the mat. But this amounts to the same thing as my New Year’s resolution. I’m trying to treat myself better. By letting yoga be yoga and life be life, I’m not going to get caught up in things as much.

I take the bring nothing and take nothing thing a little further when I’m classes. I try to pretend I’m the only one in the room, and I’m hearing a disembodied voice guide me.

It works, somewhat. I spend a fair amount of time with my eyes closed, and my glasses are off so I can’t actually see people’s faces (facial expressions, anyway) even when my eyes are open, so that I’m not paying as much attention to what’s going on around me (though there’s a very real risk I could be making eye contact without knowing it; my bad, yoga stranger). And multiple times I’ve been in the room with someone I knew without realizing it until afterward.

But that’s my system. Before class, I’m in my own little world lying down to stretch out my back with my eyes closed just slowing down my breathing to get my mind right. And when class is going, I’m trying to just do my own thing within the sandbox of the class instructions.

I modify. And I modify. And I modify.

8 years into doing yoga, I have a better idea of what I want to get out of it, so I make adjustments. I try to be open-minded and generally will always give something I try before going rogue.

Today was no different. And that was the problem. Modifications to make the poses easier or more difficult is something everyone should do. But they should do it for the right reasons. I didn’t today.

I’ve been trying to create lots of puddles of sweat these days. This is a part of me trying to treat myself better. I’m also trying to eat better (I’m currently at about 6 or so days in a row where a salad has been a meal, though I feel like pizza will be supper, so that’s streak’s going away today).

Puddles of sweat and salad. This is me coping with the stress of getting ready to leave a job, town, apartment, friends, etc., and chase a new adventure. Seemed healthier than my usual tactics of pretending everything’s going to be ok and doing nothing to make myself mentally and physically prepared for the stress I’m putting it through.

The puddles of sweat have a problem: my ego. Working out is great. Working out too hard is bad. I have a habit of pulling the latter because of ego and getting injured.

As I’ve been trying to more consistently make puddles of sweat, I’ve been pushing myself harder. On Monday, I did the most brutal ashtanga session I’ve probably ever done, including when I’ve been class. On Wednesday, my body vetoed some of the last poses because it couldn’t take any more. I had muscles feeling tweaked in my chest. Turns out they weren’t the only ones.

Afterward I had to ice my knee, shoulder, and back.

Maybe I should rest some.

I did myself a favor and took Thursday off. On Friday, I still wasn’t 100%, so I considered doing an abbreviated session, but I also knew I wanted to go to class on Saturday. There’s only one teacher left for the summer I’m still willing to take class with, and this was the last time I’d get a chance to take her class. So I took Friday off.

And Saturday morning? I felt like shit. For some reason, Saturdays before yoga don’t go well for me. My schedule is slightly altered, and I stress about going to class (even if it’s a studio that I’ve attended more than 100 class sessions at). It’s fairly routine for me to feel bad before class, and today wasn’t any different.

So going into class, I’m coming off a couple of tweaked muscles and a knee that’s doing a good impression of being an a-hole. And I’m tired.

My thought was that I would do what I can. Then I revised that thought. Can and should are two different words. I resolved to take it relatively easy on myself.  I wanted to do what I should do, not what I can do. I’m quite capable of many stupid things I shouldn’t do.

These intentions are all well and good until I get started and my ego gets involved. Despite knowing I was exhausted and didn’t need to push myself, I did it anyway. For the most part, it was fine. I was just riding the struggle bus as I went after things I normally would have done. I also got to fly out of a couple of poses and end up hopping around on a concrete floor on one foot, which did wonders for aggravating an old injury to said foot.

But that’s not the dumb part. That’s just the part where I wasn’t successful. That’s the part that stays on the mat when I leave.

The dumb part is where I was successful.

We got to crow. I can do crow. I’m doing crow. Did crow. I was sweaty, so I couldn’t hold it as long as I’d like without slipping. Great.

But the teacher was trying to help some students who were new to the pose. So I did another crow. Also fine.

But the teacher was still helping them, and now I’m standing around. Ok, screw this, I’m doing side crow. I don’t get to do them often, and my ego followed me to yoga.

Brief aside: When I started going to classes, I didn’t know side crows weren’t in everyone’s wheelhouse. It was in the book I used, so I had been doing them for 5 years before stepping into a room full of yogis. I didn’t do it all that well, but I could do it. And then a teacher last summer showed a class I was in a good way to get into it, and all of a sudden, my side crow got a lot more stable. Now I had a dangerous source of pride.

So I did side crow on one side today before sweat-slicked limbs sent me out of it. And then I did it on the other and the sweat wasn’t a problem, which meant I was holding it steady. Then the teacher pointed me out doing side crow. Now we have a problem. I had the attention of some of the class and heard something to the effect of a “wow” from someone. There was some slight embarrassment that I went rogue and it got pointed out. There was also a massive ego boost knowing I (seemingly) impressed someone else in class.

And that’s a problem.

I’m not in yoga for an ego boost. I’m not in class to impress the people around me. I go to class to practice with other people (even when I try to pretend they’re not there). I go to class to allow someone else to shoulder the load of guiding me through my practice. And yet, there I was letting my ego drive me and subconsciously made a decision to do something to impress the room. I can’t show up to yoga hoping to impress people.

It all worked out fine, but that’s not the point. The point is that I let a bad part of my personality take the reins. Even if I didn’t get hurt this time, I’m putting myself at risk for next time. And even if I never get hurt, I can’t be motivated by the perceptions of other people in the room.

I’m trying to treat myself better. Going to yoga was a good thing. Going after that side crow when I was dealing with shoulder and chest muscles hurting was a bad thing. I won’t beat myself up over it, but I need to acknowledge that was problematic. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it’s there. Maybe next time I’ll just patiently wait for the next pose. Maybe.