When I stared going to yoga classes, I figured my learning curve would be like it is with most things: I’d start out as the bumbling beginner in the back row and then, perhaps slowly, I’d get the hang of it.
I wasn’t deluded. I knew I’d never be as agile as the teenager in the front row or as strong as the ex-Marine in the corner. But with time and practice, I figured I’d get competent. Pretty soon, I’d be one of the folks that newbies eye when they lose track of the pose flow. Maybe I’d even learn to do a headstand.
And so with these humble dreams, I joined the ranks of all the unemployed adults in my town, donned comfortable stretchy clothes, and bought my first punch card.
But, alas, after eight months of practicing three to six times a week, I have improved. . . not at all. I am perpetually the apple-shaped lady in the back row who falters in tree pose, who tips over in eagle pose, who cannot, for the life of me, when bent forward in downward dog, ever seem to be able to step or hop my feet between my hands. Or anywhere near my hands.
Even corpse pose eludes me. I broke my tailbone when I was pregnant with the little one, so lying flat on my back smarts.
My partner says I’m getting stronger. She assures me that, yes, there is some tactile benefit to all these “warrior twos” and sun salutations, but I think my well-defined biceps might just as easily be explained by the fact that the baby keeps getting heavier.
Yoga teachers are fond of reminding their students that yoga is not a competitive sport. “No judgment,” they say. “Be where you are.”
And I’m not really here to judge myself. Or be any place else. But it does seem curious that a girl can suck at something and continue to suck at it no matter how much of it she does.
No matter, I remind myself. As I learned from punk philosophy, it’s OK to do things you’re not good at. The journey is the destination, man.
It’s kind of a relief, actually. I never have to worry that I’m going to be put on the spot and asked to “demonstrate” for the class. In fact, on several occasions I have been asked to move my mat so that some beginner will have a view of someone else–anyone else.
My first yoga teacher apparently didn’t share my punk philosophy. He was encouraging enough at first, but pretty soon he was fed up. “Ariel!” he’d snap. “You’re not paying attention!”
I was paying attention. But I’ve always had a really hard time remembering my right from my left-so if you say, “Ariel, lift your right leg,” there’s that moment’s delay as I quickly check the tattoo I know is on my right forearm and then make the calculation that means I have to lift the opposite leg.
When the rest of the class was in sync, he’d yell, “Ariel, you’re spacing out! The rest of my class is a flock of birds!”
What did that make me? The turd?
So I gathered up my comfy stretch pants and my yoga mat and I found a new studio where the teachers are so busy chanting OM that they either don’t notice that I never seem to get better or they’re at peace with the universe and therefore don’t care.
It would be fun if practice made perfect.
Or even proficient.
But I guess sometimes practice just makes practice.