“I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”


That was one of the quotes handwritten on the wall of the yoga studio.  I disagreed.


Yoga and I don’t actually get along.  I mean, I LOVE the way I feel at the end of my practice, but every twisted, unbalanced minute of the actual practice drives me nuts.


I used to practice quite often.  The drop-in classes were easy to make a couple of times a week, and then I hit the jackpot and lived with an instructor in training who led my friend and me in practice every weekday morning.  After two and a half months I still held a grudge against it.  When I moved I gave it up.


Last fall I joined the Y and started going again, but only sporadically.  The stars had to be perfectly aligned, and the excuses had to be hard to find, before I would trudge out with my mat in time to make it to the 6 a.m. class without getting lost on the track on the way.


But today a friend was having a bad week.  She is underemployed and recently single.  And because she is recently single, she is about to be kicked out of her house.  And today her car broke down.  And she really wanted to go to a free yoga class.


“I’ll go!”  I just felt like I should.  I went earlier in the week and it was fine.  One of my most enjoyable practices ever, actually.  I could definitely suck it up for a friend who just wanted some company.  So I pulled up the event on the yoga studio’s homepage.


108 sun salutations in honor of the first day of fall.  WTF? How did I get myself into this? I hate to do six in a practice.  108? Seriously? Balls.


But it got better.  When we walked into the studio I realized I had missed the line that said it was HOT yoga.  I didn’t even have a towel with me.  Awesome.  Well it could be great, right? I’d never tried hot yoga.  At a minimum the workout would have to be great.  And it was only her second yoga attempt ever, so I could talk her into leaving at the halfway point if it came down to it.


It started out great.  Downward facing dog, step to the front of the mat, mountain, fold, half-way up, fold, chaturanga, upward facing dog, downward facing dog…. The positions slowly awakened.  I liked the feeling.  We don’t do sun salutations at the Y.  But it was so HOT.  On about the sixth salutation the sweat was pouring off of me.  I said the same thing after Zumba this week, but it turns out I was wrong then.  THIS redefined pouring off of me.  It didn’t take long before a sweat trail led up the middle of my mat and onto the floor in front of it.  Fine.  Suck it up.  But it kept spreading.


The next few salutations passed quickly.  Then I started to lose my grip on the mat. As I lowered into chaturanga my left hand slipped out from under me.  On the next rotation my right foot slid to the edge of my mat.  As I worked to maintain my balance and complete the poses my inner arms began to tremble.  I couldn’t push up into upward facing dog without bracing my legs or bowing my knees outward.




I’ve had enough injuries, I wasn’t going to set myself back by tearing a muscle in my arm or twisting my bad knee again.  I sat back on my mat and breathed.


I had made it through 26 of the 108 salutations.


Beside me, my friend was cranking.  As I watched her struggling to learn the poses and committing to her practice I knew I couldn’t ask her to leave at the halfway point.  I resigned myself to restarting at the end of the break.  When the break came so many people had left they asked us to move up in the room and fill in the spaces.  I did one more sun salutation before accepting that I was done for the night.  And now I was in the middle of the room.


I slid my mat to the end of the row and sat cross-legged.  I had an hour to go.  I opted to work on my meditating.  I have a hard time with that, too, but my head felt better for the yoga, even if the heat was threatening to boil it.


Best. Meditation. Ever.


I don’t know if it was a heat stroke or what, but meditation has never felt so… so.  I don’t even know how else to explain it.  My head was everywhere and nowhere.


I was thinking about all of the people I have practiced with in the past.  The instructors with their bits of sermon-like wisdom, the friends who keep me pushing myself, the roommate who gave up his mornings for us, and the couple who practiced on the mats beside us at one of the gyms but always checked on me and my back.  It turned out they ran a spine clinic and could immediately tell that I’d had a disk out of place that was still giving me trouble.


I was reflecting on all of the positive sayings on the wall about working through it, accepting your place in the world, and embracing the positive.


I was parsing through the past career and personal decisions I’ve made.


I was asking why I dislike yoga so much.


And I got some answers.


People can be awesome. Sometimes somebody else’s words open up a whole new perspective. Some things just are.  You do the best you can, you make a decision, and you move on.  And sometimes, even when you know a decision is looming, you can’t worry about it.  You will get to it when the time is right.


And I came up with two reasons why yoga is so difficult for me.  The first is that it’s just difficult.  I have to focus on my entire body in order to practice effectively.  I can’t just turn up the music, read the news, and turn up the energy level in order to succeed.  I have to concentrate.  The second is that it makes me feel guilty.  I feel like a failure when I practice.  Instead of appreciating the 10 poses I do well, I worry about the poses I don’t do well.  Tonight I was side-tracked by how many salutations I didn’t do until somewhere in the middle of my meditation, when I thought about how many I did do, and how 20 more sun salutations than I’ve ever done in one practice before is a pretty sweet achievement.


I worry over my practice because it isn’t as peaceful or as natural as it is for everyone else.  Which is ridiculous.  If there’s one thing yoga is all about, it’s finding your own practice and not worrying about the person on the next mat.


“I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”


Tonight that saying connected with my practice and my life.  When my meditation ended I was still smiling.


At the end of a practice the instructors turn the lights off and everyone assumes shavasana, or corpse pose.  The pose has you lie stretched out with your hands at your sides.  It is a pose of relaxation intended to rejuvenate your body and spirit.  It is incredibly uncomfortable on my lower back. The couple with the spine clinic advised me years ago to lie with my feet on the floor and apart from each other, but with my knees bent and touching like a twisted scarecrow.


When I got into position for my version of shavasana, I thought about how much more relaxing it was to be in a pose that worked for me than to struggle into the pose that works for most people.


Maybe yoga won’t be my favorite thing.  I’ll keep it up because I can feel the benefits, but I don’t want to struggle with it anymore.  I will accept my 26 sun salutations for the achievement they are, and I will let go of the rest.