A few months ago, I took a road trip to a yoga studio with some friends. When we walked into the room, strange yogis were on their mats, lined along both walls, warming up. There were 2 people next to each other, a man and a woman. They had perfectly toned bodies and they were slowly piking up into handstands and floating (actually floating) down into plank.
I looked at my friends and said, “There is no (expletive) way I should be here”.
But we rolled our mats out anyway, and prepared for class. I tried not to watch them as they floated like fairies into handstands, while I kicked like a donkey, gasping and braying. I tried not to stare at their perfect asses and abs, while I watched my chubby stomach roll down onto my three chins and almost suffocate me in shoulder stand. I tried not to watch their flying inverted vinyasas, as I lie there in a pool of sweat in yet another child’s pose.
I tried my best, and I managed to move through the 90 minutes without paying too much attention to anyone else in the room. Flowing with my own breath, within the limits of my own body. Grateful for both, body and breath. Pleased with my practice when it was all said and done.
This past weekend, I was blessed to be on a team of yogis at a Yogathon. 12 hours of yoga, 12 different teachers, in a large high school gymnasium. The room was filled with over 100 people who love yoga. It was pretty amazing. I walked out onto the floor, and rolled my mat out close to my teammates. And guess who puts their mats directly next to mine? You got it. The angels, the floaters, with their perfect abs and asses.
So, here I am, in a room full of 100 yogis. Ready to raise money in the spirit of love and peace and all that is yoga. Here I am, one of the oldest, chubbiest yogis in the room, with probably the worst looking practice. Here I am next to two people who have the most gorgeous practices I have ever seen.
This is my yogic test for the day. My challenge. To forget about all of the other people in the room. To stay focused on my own self. To turn inward, and not be distracted by the outward. To stay on my mat, and nowhere else for the next 12 hours.
I know there is no ego in yoga. I know that it’s not about the external expression of a pose. It’s about the way the pose feels inside. It’s not about looking like the cover of Yoga Journal magazine. It’s about the feeling I get when I let go of all else, and make that connection between body, breath and mind.
I know there is no judgment in yoga. No one practice is better than any other. Maybe my child’s pose feels as good to me as a handstand does to someone else. Maybe I am pushing myself to my limits, and they are still working within their comfort zone. I know that I am not trying to be better than anyone else. I am just trying to be the best ME I can be, right here, in this moment.
So I moved through 12 hours of yoga, occasionally appreciating, and even marveling at other people’s practices. I flowed with my own breath, and within the limits of my own body. I was grateful for both, my body and my breath. I was pleased with my practice when all was said and done.
And I floated (actually floated) out of that room at the end of the day.