Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lessons Learned from Yoga Class

The other night at yoga class, we worked on our shoulder stands. We lay on our backs and lifted our legs into the air. The flexible went further, putting their feet on the floor behind their heads (a figure called "the plow"). Much to my surprise, I was able to do this easily. I heard someone mutter behind me, "No way this is her first yoga class."

No, not my first, but I haven't been to an extended yoga class since 1998. I do some stretching here and there, but nothing sustained. I can't sit on the floor, stretch down my legs, and touch my nose to my knees--if I could do that, I'd feel flexible.

When I was young, my friends and I would do all kinds of yoga postures, not realizing we were doing yoga postures, of course. I loved to hold my legs above my head. I wasn't particularly talented at gymnastics, which was unfortunate, since we all modeled ourselves after Nadia Comaneci, that summer of 1976. But I was strong in other ways, and I just didn't realize it.

My Indian friend tells me that I'm not as inflexible as I think I am, so perhaps that dynamic is still at work. I always look at how far I have to go to be where I'd like to be and feel a sense of hopelessness. I wish that I could look at how much I can already do and give myself some credit.

I see a similar dynamic in much of my spiritual life. Instead of giving myself credit for the daily offices that I do pray, I beat myself up for the ones that I miss. Instead of feeling good about what I tithe, I feel guilty about the goofy purchases I make, money that could have been used to alleviate some of the symptoms of poverty. I look at spiritual warriors and wonder why I can't be more like them.

Ah, time to inject another useful lesson from yoga class. During my yoga class that I went to (sporadically) from 1994-1998, my teacher would often tell me, "Stop looking at anybody else. Stop comparing yourself to what everyone else is doing. It won't help you." So true, and so applicable to so many areas of my life.

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