Ya’ll, I suck at yoga on every level. It’s supposed to be spiritual and not competitive, but I spend most of any yoga class I attend trying to see if I am better than anyone, ANYONE in the room. I can’t even count on the octogenarians to suck more than I do. It’s also supposed to be calm and relaxing, but I find it frustrating and humiliating when the teacher has to bring me a strap. And then a block. And then another strap and another block because I can’t reach my own hand behind my back. Yes, I am the one with too much pride to get the yoga props at the beginning of class (because I think this time it will be different, even though I haven’t been to class in 4 weeks), but when the teacher sees my grimaces as I lumber my way through whatever-the-hell-asana she’s asked us to do, she knows I need multiple straps and blocks and towels and vicodins to complete the remaining 43 minutes of the 45 minute class.
I hate that I am not good at it. I hate that I can’t even figure out what kind of clothes to wear to keep from having to constantly get my t-shirt from riding up to my boobs when I try triangle pose (don’t be fooled by the prosaic names of the poses; I almost lost a limb in this one once). I REFUSE to buy thousand dollar bras and funky Eastern-spirituality shirts depicting the goddess moon and stars to wear to yoga. How come I can’t throw on a 10-year old Addidas shirt and some stretchy pants and do this “exercise”?
I also hate how public it is. At my gym (I am not ready for a “studio”), yoga is practiced where any passerby can stop and gawk at the yogis (and me) taking class. I can hear the pumping of the music for Zumba class and the thump of tennis balls on either side of the yoga room. I always wonder how I can bring myself to do this in front of other people and almost always promise myself never to do it again.
I am a relatively graceful person (right, Jeff?) and I have 2 decades of ballet under my belt, but yoga makes me feel brittle and awkward and spatially vulnerable. The worst thing I could hear in yoga class: “Let’s work on our balancing poses.” Great, idea. Then, let’s do the poses where we voluntarily scratch out our gums just like the ancient Sanskritians did to be closer to the gods. I do enjoy how the uber-earnest teachers ask you before class what you would like to work on during the class. Some jackass always says, “Oh, can we please do pigeon?” For those who do not know, pigeon is a Medieval pose that is the yoga equivalent of crucifixion. Check Wikapedia– it’s all in there. I always say, “Can we work on something for the hamstrings?” I don’t even pretend that I know what pose would help my hamstrings, I just know every pose I have ever done makes my hamstrings burn with the fire of Hades.
I keep going to yoga, extremely sporadically, because I am waiting for a breakthrough. I am waiting for it to feel as euphoric to me as running in the morning to Justin Bieber tunes. In the meantime, I keep showing up here and there to take the beating with all the other practitioners whose handprints are molded into their serenely-colored Gaiam mats. My mat usually curls up at the edges because I so infrequently roll it out.
I mean it when I say I suck at it.
This is good news for a small segment of society. (Not the people who have to stand around me during class, as I curse my way through sun salutations, because the only salutation I want to give the sun is my middle finger.) It’s good news for my kids.
It’s simple. I am always asking them to do things they suck at. For example, “Simon, can you say ‘mommy’?” (No, he can’t. He couldn’t thirty minutes ago either. Better luck next hour, Mom.) “Sadie, can you please clean up the huge mess of Puffs you just made?” (Apparently not, because she never has once picked up a Puff, unless it was three days later and she was ready for a snack.)
I sometimes see my kids trying really hard, like with their tongues out and their minds totally focused on what they are doing. Sadie tries to button her sweater. Simon tries to unfasten the seat belt on the Costco cart. They try so hard and they just can’t do it. Their little hands and brains are not ready for the motor skills they want so desperately to master. I swear sometimes I see sweat on their little brows. In fact, most of the things in life there are to do they simply cannot do yet. Their days are filled with the awkward longing of wanting to do something themselves but being physically unable. When I am sweating it out in yoga, wondering why in Ryan Gosling’s name I can’t make my legs bend into the position that Grandma Moses has placidly sunk herself into, I sometimes (ok, only once) I think to myself, “Is this what Sadie feels like when I tell her to try to zip her jacket herself? Or how Simon feels when I ask him to repeat selected stanzas from Robert Frost’s poetry?”
It sucks to feel awkward and to not be able to do something everyone else in the room can do. When I am getting a solid dose of humility in yoga, I think it’s closest I come to understanding the frustration that Sadie and Simon feel daily. Maybe all kids feel this. Maybe this explains the temper tantrum phenomenon that has swept through my household. My experience in yoga hasn’t yet translated into my exhibiting more patience or more empathy when my kids are frustrated, but I suspect I am only about 4 sun salutations away from huge well of empathy to draw upon the next time I see those furrowed brows and hear the frustrated sighs.