I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself around February, to be entirely honest. Not nearly as chuffed as I was when I figured out what chuffed meant, but that’s a story for another day. So there I was feeling pleased with myself when I realized that I was wrong.

Well, fiddlesticks.

I started doing yoga for fun and exercise (and sanity, that’s a very important one) during the summer of 2008, when I got home from my first year of university and realized that my Freshman Fifteen had been a little bit more like a Freshman Thirty and none of the summer clothes I was unpacking fit me anymore. The yoga/pilates/tai-chi combo classes I was taking were mentally relaxing enough to get me to the gym nearly three times a week for most of the summer, and I went back to the gym the following summer.

Fall of 2009 I began a year’s study in Plymouth, England, in a theatre programme which included a module (that’s class or course, for those of us normally on the western side of the Atlantic) in physical theatre. The training included yoga practice and an Indian martial art called Kalari Payattu (Calorie Pie-at). The first couple of classes, I felt pretty chuffed with myself as we went through a couple of sun salutations, sequences I already knew. That was pretty close to the last time that year I felt like I was in any way more prepared for whatever we were doing than anyone else in the class.

Before long, the whole physical theatre thing was beginning to get to me. I wasn’t the least bendy person in the class, but I was pretty close, and I got really frustrated. By the end of the class, I was the only one who couldn’t do the bridge posture, which is also called the wheel but I always just knew as a back bend. Y’know, that thing with your belly button up towards the ceiling and your hands and feet under you in some improbability of physics. As a side note, I still couldn’t, since I’d taken to practising yoga alone in my living room, which, being a basement has ceramic floors. I didn’t particularly fancy smacking my head or neck off ceramic tiles, yoga mat or not, so I took a break from that particular posture.

In the first couple of weeks of that class, before I’d started to get frustrated and cranky, but not before some of my classmates had, the instructor told us that if we stuck with it, didn’t push too hard, and let things happen, we’d do things we never imagined ourselves capable of.

I may have mentioned before that my usual method of problem solving resembles that of a battering ram. The idea of not pushing too hard is a little beyond my comprehension. My response the day that the last classmate managed their backbend while I was still stuck on the floor was to heave with all my might and give my back a rather uncomfortable twinge in the process. I was probably lucky I didn’t break my neck. Moral of the story, I’m a big fan of just pushing through problems, and am usually pretty convinced that if I don’t push, I won’t get anywhere.

Anyways, after a few months of not doing much in the way of yoga or stretching, I took it up again. I tried to do some every other day, but being the rather lazy individual I know myself to be, it often didn’t happen. Still, I kept unrolling my mat and plugging away, because I almost invariably felt better after I’ve finished than I did before I started.
That day, after I’d finished most of my sequence, I was sitting on the floor, feet out and flexed, leaning forward over my legs and reaching for my toes, my nose about two inches from my knees.

Wait. Hold that thought. Think for one second just how far two inches is. We’re talking about less than the depth of a coffee cup here. You could not have fit a coffee cup between my nose and my knees. I have never been particularly flexible. If you’re one of those people who never had a point in life where you couldn’t touch your toes without bending your knees, you will likely be unable to fathom my amazement at this development.

I could almost touch my knees with my nose!

So this is why I was feeling so chuffed with myself. I’d been working on this yoga thing for awhile by then, listening to recordings, trying to take the lessons to heart. Doing the practice that felt right at the moment, using the modifiers when I needed to, not judging my progress too harshly, and not pushing myself too far.

Yep, not pushing myself too far. Without pushing myself, without hurting myself, slowly, steadily, with patience rather than force, I accomplished something I thought was entirely beyond my capabilities. Victor would be so proud.


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