I went to Yoga today. I bought a 10-session pass in September. According to my app when I booked my class today, I haven’t attended since November. It’s now April. This winter was a rough one with record breaking temperatures, wind chills, and snow totals. I suppose it’s safe to say that hibernation was required for survival. In my defense, I did some yoga at home but honestly, I wasn’t dedicated to practicing. Today, I attended the Hatha class which is supposed to be a bit more restorative and less strenuous. During the class, which I was really looking forward too, I began to notice irritation arising towards the instructor. The class was full and the room was warm and quiet. No one speaks or makes eye contact which I really like. All of us are lying flat on the mat, resting or trying to gather enough energy to make it through class.
The teacher came in loudly and with way too much enthusiasm for 8:30 a.m. Her voice was perky and shrill. Her words, bossy with a touch of pseudo humility. My annoyance didn’t surprise me. I’ve been increasingly irritable and noticeably negative. The teacher obviously came in with an intention which she boldly announced during her “welcome to class” lecture.
We were instructed to begin in child’s pose, resting our arms behind us so our bodies mimicked the shape of an egg. As I rested there, desperately hoping to get out of my head and into my body, she squawked on about Easter, the renewal we feel in welcoming spring, and the budding trees and flowers all around us. All the while my body and mind tightening around her words. I just wanted to stretch, let go of thinking, and focus on returning to the sensations of the body.
The week had been filled with work related stress, discouragement, boredom, overly critical thinking towards myself and others, as well as a sense of deep loneliness. I was spending too much time in my head. I needed to connect with my body. Unfortunately, the sage on the stage was winding up her sermon. Her next instruction was to imagine breaking through the egg, shattering the egg shell, to reach our full potential. At that point I tried hard not to gag on my anger. Full potential? Lady, I’m trying not to think about my “full potential” right now. I’m trying to move from my head to my heart and into the limbs of my body. My “full potential” right now consists of breathing to hold these poses, stretching to release trapped muscle pain, and trying very hard not to potentially yell “would you just shut the f*** up?” in the middle of this class.
Man, that would have felt good.
Or maybe not.
You’ll be happy to know I survived the 90 minutes and there were moments where I noticed a calm mind, and felt the connection of what it’s like to be embodied. It took a while to let go of the resentment and pressure I felt towards being told to “reach for my full potential.” Even in my yoga class, I can’t just be. Really? Even in my yoga class I have to be reaching, striving, attaining.
All of this pointed to a phrase my meditation teacher liked to use, “The subtle violence of self-improvement.” I don’t know who packaged that phrase into a bite-sized warning but boy I sure felt it today.