Chaturanga — My Nemesis (or my greatest teacher)

So here’s the deal: I have been practicing hot yoga at Moksha Yoga North York since August 2011. For a girl who has never been athletic, and who was once 95 kilos at 160 centimeters, going to my first hot yoga class was a very scary proposition.

First, there were the clothes. Now I know that sounds superficial and vain, but it’s a serious concern. I was no longer 95 kilos, but I certainly had little in common with the yogis in those magazines I read. So forgive me if the thought of exposing my “not-so-nice” bits, in shorts and tank tops while sweating profusely wasn’t very appealing to me.

Now add the heat, and the fact that I’m asthmatic, and that I faint in intense heat, and hot yoga just didn’t seem like the right choice for me. But it SO was. The teachers were amazing, the vibe was unbelievably inclusive and the heat made the yoga even more awesome. Not even the obscene amount of “unlady-like” sweat that poured off my body each and every class, could stop me from going back to the studio.

What’s my issue then you ask. Well I’ll tell you. My issue is that damn chaturanga pose. I can’t do it. I want to do it. I really, really do. I see everyone else around me doing it (even though I’m not supposed to be comparing myself to others), but I just can’t do it.

Each and every week, I go to class 2-3 times and each and every class I start getting that “Oh my God is it almost time for chaturanga,” feeling in the pit of my stomach. Each class I tell myself to focus and just try, and each class I end up in child’s pose while everyone else is able to do another flow (or two).

Fast forward to yesterday. The yoga studio held a workshop on how to do the entire down dog flow and I thought it would be a good idea for me to sign-up. Maybe there was something magical that they could teach me that would somehow make Chaturanga easier to do.

At first the class was great. The teachers were awesome, the explanations they gave were very detailed. They talked about slowing things down, and really feeling where you were hanging out in your body. They talked about what muscle to use, and what muscles not to use. They demonstrated all the “traps” and how to be aware of them.

I was listening and absorbing and feeling really good about everything. Until we got to Chaturanga. That’s when it all fell apart. I tried to breathe through my frustration, I tried to ease up on myself, I tried to bring some gentleness and softness into what I was doing. Nothing worked. All I could hear was that voice in my head shouting out that I was “useless” because I couldn’t do this one pose.

The screaming got so loud, I became totally overwhelmed and started to cry. Thankfully, we were lying in Savasana in a dim lit room by the time that happened, so I didn’t compound the problem with a very public melt-down. But the whole experience shook me to my core and I’m still sorting through the aftermath.

At first, I thought that my after-class crying jags were because I couldn’t do the pose. So I called my boyfriend and he gave me a pep talk. He reminded me of all the positive changes I’ve made because of my yoga practice and I felt somewhat better.

Thirty minutes later I was crying again. So, I called my boyfriend, and he gave me another pep talk, and I thought “there … now I can let it go.”

I was wrong. I continued to cry on and off the entire evening. I cursed the Gods for giving me weak arms. I berated myself for starting yoga at 41 and not 21. I questioned why Chaturanga was even important. I cursed Chaturanga for daring to be part of my yoga sequence.

Suddenly, in the midst of all that cursing and berating and questioning, it hit me. I’m not really upset because I can’t do Chaturanga! I’m upset at how badly I treated myself because I couldn’t do Chaturanga! I was devastated that I fell back into that negative pattern of beating myself up because I didn’t do something “perfectly.” I was flabbergasted that I fell back in the hole over a yoga pose.

After all of the work that I’ve done these last couple of years, how could I treat myself like that? How did I fall into the hole again? Didn’t I already learn to not just walk around the hole, but actually take a whole different route? Was I really so weak that all it took was a difficult yoga pose to send me spinning? Was there really still a part of me that believes I am useless?

The answer is I’m not weak or useless. I’m human. I’m not perfect but that’s perfectly okay. I can’t do Chaturanga (yet), but that doesn’t make me any less of a yogi. I’ve stuck with my yoga practice for 18 months now. That’s about 12 months longer than any other physical activity I’ve undertaken in 43 years. I go way out of my comfort zone every time I go for a class, and I love that! I have more good days than bad now. I feel connected. I feel more like me than ever before.

Yes, I still have a dark side that likes to kick me around every once in while. That’s okay too. She can kick and scream all she wants. I don’t have to listen.

I guess I still have some more work to do and not just on my Chaturanga.

Back to the hot room!

Namaste.