Not too long ago, a yoga studio opened up next door to the martial arts studio where I train. The two businesses share a parking lot in the back, and both have a rear entrance, along a narrow path about five feet below the level of the parking lot. One day, I parked and headed in, dressed in gi pants and tank top, karate bag stuffed with sparring gear and weapons over my shoulder. Another woman approximately my age was just ahead of me and as she got to the yoga door, she smiled and very courteously held it open for me.
She was also blocking my way.
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m going in the other door.”
Going in the other door is not always easy, and you don’t usually like to let people know about them.
Those hard days can catch you by surprise.
You go in thinking, I’ve got this, just another class. You’re aware that others might look to you to be a role model, whether you want to be or not, because there are not many of you, so you feel you have to represent well for everyone else, but some days… some days class gets going and suddenly you feel too small, too weak, too unprepared, and you are bruised and dazed and trying to keep your head together and too much is coming at you too fast, and everyone means well and that almost makes it worse because you are struggling, and you’re mad because you are struggling, because you are not PERFECT, because you practiced and practiced but not enough, it’s never enough, and not the right way, and why didn’t you practice harder, and there are too many voices there trying to help and you can’t think, and now you are bruised again but don’t say anything, don’t let them see it might be too much because you want to keep up, you will keep up, you can’t let anyone know it hurts, everyone else takes it, and you can be tough too, so you bear down and take it, but your eyes are stinging and OH NO don’t let them see you cry, but you are not really crying it’s just your body responding, but they won’t know that and OH SHIT that was too fast, I wasn’t ready and FOCUS and now your face is even more flushed, and GOD why is this guy such a jerk, no, he’s only trying to help, but he isn’t helping, and does he think scaring me is going to help, and maybe I shouldn’t be here, maybe I should be going in the yoga door, where people like me are supposed to be, where it’s all ‘you’re perfect just as you are’ and ‘be here now’ and ‘breathe’ and ‘namaste’ and I’m bored out of my skull but not this not falling apart, not this failure, and after class you stay in the dressing room by yourself, because of course there’s only you in there and you wait for your face to stop being so flushed and the tears to stop and you want to howl in frustration, but you are frustrated at yourself because what are you doing, what are you thinking, maybe you shouldn’t have spent so many childhood years playing fairy princess prancing about until the day in the bramble bush when you realized price charming wasn’t going to save you, wasn’t ever going to save you, and even if he did, do you really want that, do you really want to be saved, that’s so humiliating, so you start that day saving yourself, over and over you save yourself, and you go from fairy princess to warrior, but you still kind of suck at it because swords are heavy, and so you try to get stronger, you build your muscles and what comes easy to them has to be worked for by you, and you get up on the bar and you pull yourself a little higher each day, just a little bit, some days the improvement’s barely noticeable, but you still try because what else is there, and you try to remember the days when you felt like you were flying, when it all seems to flow… and back in the dressing room you finally feel your face is not longer flushed and your eyes aren’t red anymore and you pack up your bag and head out the door and make a new plan to practice harder, smarter, because you CHOSE the other door, you chose something hard and maybe it will take longer than you thought and maybe you won’t ever be as good as you want, but you know that even if this is not where you are expected to be, this is exactly where you are supposed to be.
And you come back next class, back through the other door, and do it all again.
P.S. While I don’t practice yoga on a regular basis, I have tremendous respect for it, and for its practitioners. It’s just not the thing I need.