On a seasonally but still unexpectedly cold day in late March, I walked through Denver in a sudden snow shower toward my first yoga class. My first one ever. Leading up to this moment was a lot of back-and-forth with myself on whether or not I would actually be attending. Why? While many people would jump at the chance for a new experience, I’m the type to be more hesitant, decide based on the intimidation factor (for me, it is almost always high) and make a mental pro/con list.
The thing about the pro/con list is that the biggest positive is always that you are trying something new. And that simple fact always outweighs whatever reasons you may muster for saying no and sticking to your same old routine. So even though I let myself debate for a day or two, I ultimately knew what I was going to say: yes!
However, there have been times in the past when I’ve agreed to take on a new challenge (or something that isn’t even that scary) and then backed out at the last minute. To be clear, this move is neither a recommended one nor one that I'm proud of. In addition to the guilt that comes with making up a last minute excuse, even if it’s only to yourself, there is also the realization that you are ultimately conforming to your cowardice, which is never the best light in which to see yourself.
So I said yes. And after I said yes, I went.
It’s important to note that I went to one of the least physically challenging versions of yoga out there. Two devoted yogis (including the one who invited me) assured me that the possibility of me falling asleep was very real. So in a room where everyone must be totally relaxed, how could I be so tense?
I went into this experience with what I believed to be a completely open mind. “I’m relaxed,” I thought casually. “I can do this.” I planned to simply hang in the back and be okay with the fact that I might not get it right the first time.
It’s hard to say exactly when it happened, but somewhere in my recent adult life, I became a little more high strung as a person. Just a touch. Who’s to say exactly what the reason is, but I’d say it’s a combination of growing responsibilities and the pressure to be in a thousand places at once and skilled at everything you glance toward. In a world where we’re supposed to be good at everything but never a beginner, we set ourselves up to be afraid of anything new.
And what’s so scary about not being immediately amazing at something? Everyone who is hyper skilled at whatever new thing you’re thinking about at one time had to find their starting point. I completely understand when you’re facing the newness that it’s easy to forget this very fact, as I do this every time.
When I entered the studio, warm and welcoming in the sudden storm, I was greeted by the smiling girl behind the front desk and the new friend who’d invited me, both congratulating me on this new experience. My nerves started to simmer a little at this point. We joined several other attendees and our instructor in a small side room and I immediately found my place in the back, just like I planned.
Restorative yoga, as I found out, requires a lot of props and the instructor assured me that the toughest part of this class would be blanket management (See? What’s so scary about blankets?). But as the class began, I found myself facing another kind of challenge, one within myself. The instructor’s calming voice led us through a series that urged us to let go, to truly breathe. At one point, as an emphasis on how relaxed we should be feeling, she told us to ask ourselves the last time we had truly been held. All the while, I felt my fists clenching and my neck tighten.
This was unintentional, of course. And every time it happened, I was so preoccupied with getting the position right, that I barely noticed. When I did pick up on my wildly tense limbs, I would attempt to ease into a sense of real relaxation. But I really struggled there, every time. Why couldn’t I do it? When was the last time I really let myself feel held? When did I trust someone else to take care of something? When did I last let go without constantly checking over my shoulder?
"When you let go of something you are holding onto, you make room for your destiny to move in." - Lewis HolmesTweet It!
I tried to be in touch with the moment and not let my thoughts race too far ahead. As the class wrapped up and we all headed back out into the snow, I drove home slowly, watching the thick flakes wind and fall lazily around me. I felt charged with a new energy, an undeniable elation for having tried something new but also an experience that made me face myself in a way that I hadn’t for a long time.
Sometimes we’re holding on so fiercely to everything, we can’t even see our own tightened wrists or our clenched fists. We don’t even feel it anymore. And at a certain point, when does this apparent strength become our weakness? When does our determination to hold on become our inability to let go?
Not me, I let myself think defensively. I’m a master at change! I just moved my entire life across the country! I had blue hair! I've taken chances! I can totally go with the flow. Even as these thoughts passed through my head, I knew I had to shake them off. They were excuses. They were an attempt to justify.
I think sometimes it takes immersing ourselves in a new experience to really see ourselves in a way we otherwise could not. Sure, I was aware of my tendency to be a little controlling or to map out pieces of my life that are wholly unmap-able. I know I am not exactly chill. But this class, this hour-long look into myself, really showed me how much truth there is to that. More than I realized, in fact. I don't anticipate doing a headstand anytime soon. I'm okay with starting at the beginning and lingering there. It was a reminder that I don't have to be great at everything, that I don't have to figure everything out as I go or do it all myself. I don't even necessarily have to get better at something.
I can just show up. I can just be here. I can ask for help. I can change my mind. I can breathe.
Helen Williams is a Colorado transplant who is passionate about cooking, writing and combining the two on her vegetarian and vegan food blog, green girl eats. She strives, every day, to be less sorry. When she's not in the kitchen, you can find her reading, loving the community at Holstee or trying to pet your dog.
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