Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

07 October 2011

Struggles with Balance

I have been doing yoga for about ten years. Sometimes I do it more frequently than at other times. For example, when I am doing P90X, yoga is only a weekly workout routine.

When I was an undergraduate, several of my friends and I would meet and do it at school in our studio theatre space. There were a whole bunch of us undergraduates who did this: probably more than ten. I did yoga a lot back then.

The thing is, I almost never do yoga at a studio. I have maybe done yoga at a studio a total of ten times in my life. And I've been doing yoga for ten years. This is a cost issue. Yoga classes are expensive and I do not have a lot of money. So that solves that.

My friend Jeanne (who blogs about happiness) convinced me to try a hot-yoga class last night and, well, I haven't worked out in about a week, and she wanted to try out this local studio, so I agreed to go.

It was hot in there. An average of 100º, actually, for the whole time.

One of the things that I was noticing while I was practicing, though, was how competitive I can be. Doing yoga by myself at home or with only a few people, usually means that I am not very aware of other people's work. And I shouldn't be. They are at their own place in their practice and I am in mine. There is nothing to compare. Our bodies are different from one another, and if I'm working hard I'm doing it correctly.

But when I'm in a room full of people, I can't help but think oh I am not quite doing this right or oh look how well she can do that. And I correct myself: no, release that: do your work. But, well, these feelings come up, and if I'm thinking about being as "good" as someone else, I'm not doing my own work.

Even more than that, I find myself looking to the yogi for approval! And what kind of approval do I want? Oh, who knows. Is he supposed to say Good work, today? And according to what rubric? He barely knows me, right? And he certainly can't know whether or not I am really pushing myself, working toward my personal edge. I notice myself seeking this approval as I move through one asana into the next. And then, of course, I judge myself for seeking his approval, for trying to get to some mythical level two (yoga is not tetris, no matter how much I want it to be). And then I correct myself again. I need to fail without judgment; recognize my failures and move on. Yoga means balance, and sometimes finding that balance can itself be a struggle.

I voice these pitfalls because I find that acknowledging the places where I fail is good practice.

And in fact, these struggles become a part of the practice of going to a studio. That is, they are not so much things that I'm doing wrong or problems that I'm discovering as they are a portion of the work that I ought to be doing when I do yoga. Doing yoga at home by myself would certainly allow me to avoid feelings of inadequacy, competitiveness, needing approval, but when I am in a studio, I have the opportunity, not simply to bypass those things, but to work through them.