Why I Sucked at Yoga Today

So you’ve fallen for someone. In the brief time you’ve been in his presence, everything seems to glow. He’s this other version of yourself, and he somehow amplifies what makes being alive so exciting. The thing is, this someone is not yours to have. So what to do when this certain unattainable someone unexpectedly shows up in your yoga class?

Let’s set the scene: You drift into class as it’s about to start, as you do every week. You find a spot, roll out your mat, press up into Mountain pose and—BAM! —there he is,  directly in the line of your drishti. There’s no time for a friendly hello—class has begun but there he is, in the flesh, regardless.

From where he’s standing, he’s got it pretty good—he’s got his back turned toward you and is blissfully unaware of your presence. He only has to see you when you eventually make it into Down Dog. (That is, if his eyes are open and the two women between you aren’t doing some routine different from the one your teacher is leading.)

It’s not as though you’ve been thinking of him all week, anyway.

It’s not as though you’ve spent each day trying to get his face out of your head as you catch yourself smiling like a schoolgirl in the rearview mirror when it does.

We often hear our teachers talking about taking yoga off of the mat, how yoga offers us skillful ways to deal with challenging situations: tools that help us observe instead of react, tools that remind us to breathe through each wave as it comes. Well, here’s your chance to practice—here is that something your mind has been grappling with all week, someone you thought you could seek respite from by coming to your mat...someone who just so happened to be attending class as well.

Sometimes yoga can get cushy. It's fun to practice in our coziest stretch pants among beautiful friends in warmly lit rooms, conjuring up images of frothy post-class almond-milk lattes as we settle into Savasana. But we all know this is not really why we show up. We come to our mats because we need what yoga fundamentally teaches us, the rooted perspectives it offers during those jarring moments when life catch us off-guard.

So this particular yoga class became the longest hour and a half of my life. I wanted to run, escape, indulge, cry, confess, break, eat—anything but be where I was at that very moment.  I wanted off my stupid yoga mat! I was distracted by the chatter of my mind while trying, and failing, to keep my gaze soft, my breath spacious, and my body moving, and focus on anything but HIM.

At one point during class I stopped and looked up at the glowing jalapeño lights framing the studio’s windows. Dusk began to settle, and I realized that the best I could do was suck at yoga today. I surrendered to being a frazzled yogi showing up on her mat unable to focus or calm the fluctuations of her mind. In that moment I realized the reality of the situation and made the choice to let things be as they were.

In life sometimes my actions suck, and sometimes my mind and heart get the best of me. The more I practice yoga, though, the more I realize that practice is about allowing myself to be human, to be fallible. Sure, the poses can look and feel terrific, but they’re only a teeny piece of this monumental gift we call yoga, which we get to carry with us each day, bringing it forth into our lives when we need it most. So the next time you show up class and the person who just might be the love of your life and that you can’t have happens to be there too… 1. Breathe 2. Stay on the mat 3. Know that you have the ability to accept what is at any moment—even if you get distracted, flustered, and lose your focus. Every now and again, it’s OK to suck at yoga.

Samantha Cullen is an actor and yoga teacher who writes a blog, The Yoga of Cake.

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Samantha Cullen, RYT, is a certified yoga teacher and outdoor guide for Kripalu R&R Retreats and other Kripalu programs.

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