I took a yoga class today that should have been easy. Or if not easy, easily within my asana abilities. And yet, I had to sit out about half of it.
It’s one thing to stay still because you don’t feel like moving, and another entirely to feel forced into immobility. I love my Saturday yoga class; I was eager for the opportunity and didn’t want to miss a moment. But about twenty minutes in, my vision was getting fuzzy, and a mental dialogue ensued.
Although accurately recalling a thought chain is about as impossible as inhaling the same air twice, I know my mind was spinning something like this:
What the hell? Why am I so lightheaded? Is it because I ate an egg and an apple an hour before class? I know better than to eat before yoga. But I had to eat something. And that was such a light meal! Oh, wow, I am kind of dizzy. Am I really going to have to sit down, or is this my brain being lazy? Maybe it’s because I gave blood yesterday. I probably haven’t had enough water since then. But seriously, this is just Warrior Two. I should be able to do this—
And that’s when I sat down. Because “should” is a sure sign that the ego is in charge, and I know better than to let it rule. But it is hard, honoring weakness. I have been feeling quite strong, and I was shocked to find my body disagreeing.
I aimed for compromise, avoiding the full surrender of child’s pose and instead sitting tall on my knees, the way I learned to do in Bikram. In the hot room, it seemed borderline shameful to sit down (no matter what the teacher said, the energy told me otherwise), but if you had to, there was protocol: on your knees, head above the heart, focus on the breath.
Focus on the breath, oh yes. That was where I’d lost my way, in the first ten minutes of class. As the teacher guided us through a beautifully modified set of sun salutations I noticed I was panting to keep up. But instead of slowing down, I told myself, C’mon, this isn’t even fast.
Which, it wasn’t. The pace was perfectly reasonable–all the more reason for my ego to resist defeat.
That resistance, that ego, is how I ended up pretending I was fine and almost passing out before finally snatching at that mental “should” and sinking to my mat. I pressed my palms together at my chest, my mouth closed in a firm line. You’re okay. You’re okay. You have been here before. Just breathe. Keep your heart lifted, your focus strong, and–
“Rest.” The teacher’s hand was on my back, gently pressing me down into child’s pose. “Rest, rest, rest.”
I trusted my teacher’s touch and I relaxed. I let go. I listened to my breath, long and steady with the rise and fall of my spine. I released my expectations and accepted what I was feeling. I soaked in the sounds of the kirtan playing in the background.
I realized as I mentally chanted along with one of my favorite artists that even at rest–maybe especially at rest–I was still doing yoga. I felt my fingertips tingle and I agreed with the lyrics: “I am so thankful, jai, I am so thankful for this moment right now.”
What a gift, what good yoga, to allow for rest. As class progressed, at some points I was able to participate, and at others I again required retreat. Thoughts of failure, of weakness, of inadquacy showed up from time to time, but the music and the mood reminded me to stick with bhakti, the yoga of love and devotion.
I devoted myself to my breath, and I followed it with patience and compassion, and I was grateful.