I bought a yoga mat.
Kind of a big deal.
A few weeks ago, I walked into Scheel’s Sporting Goods, took the escalator to the second floor (don’t judge…I would have taken the steps, but there were three “adorable” children messing around on the stairs, and I didn’t feel like disturbing their play), and navigated to an area of the store I’m not overly familiar with.
There I came face to face with three different types of yoga mats, two of which came in an assortment of colors. Instantly I was overwhelmed. (It reminded me of a math problem: If there are three different types of yoga mats, each coming in 4 different colors, how many choices of yoga mats are there? And then the second part of the problem would have read: If one brand cost $19.99, another cost $59.99, and the last one cost $109, which yoga mat would your husband want you to buy?)
After carefully reading the descriptors on the packaging, I still didn’t have a clue which yoga mat would best suit my needs, and the man asking if he could help, really wasn’t at all helpful. After several minutes of inner dialogue, (I’ll spare you this) I opted for the middle of the road model. (Turns out I didn’t even have to make a color choice. Thank goodness.)
So now, I am the proud owner of a yoga mat, which again, is kind of a big deal, as it symbolizes my commitment to an activity that is not my forte. Yoga poses do not flow. I still glance around for visual verification that I’m doing things correctly. And while I can strike a balance pose effortlessly (okay…maybe not effortlessly) at home, I really suck at balancing in the studio, despite having learned the importance of a focal point. And finally, I am not a fan of group exercise. (Unless, of course, I am the one teaching the class. We’ll save that topic for a later post. And in case you’re wondering, there’s no danger of me ever becoming a yoga teacher.)
But yet, I bought a yoga mat.
And here is my source of pride; here is where the success part comes in, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my ability in the yoga studio. In all honesty, I don’t feel a whole lot more coordinated today than when I first tried yoga. (More knowledgeable-yes, more coordinated-no.)
The success part stems from the fact that I am accepting where I am in the yoga world. I do not have to be an expert. I do not have to be the fastest. I do not have to win a trophy. I can just go, and be. Each day I can strive to be better than the day before. Each day I can listen to my body and make the most of my time. That is a pretty healthy mind shift for me.
Curious how that shift occurred? Well, let me tell you. One day, not all that long ago, I started to make sense of the whole yoga thing. One day I heard (really heard) these words:
“Welcome! (Deserving of an explanation mark…she was enthusiastic and welcoming.) My name is Laurie, and I will be guiding you through your practice today.”
That was my connection. Now in the educational world, connections are made when something new is related (connected) to something already known (schema, or background knowledge). The key word here was practice.
I never thought of yoga class as a practice. I may have heard the words spoken, but I never made the connection. But once I did, I started to feel more at peace. Yoga started to make sense.
As a teacher, I know the word practice. I teach my students new strategies every day. And I expect my students to practice new strategies. And when they are practicing, I DON’T GRADE THEM. That would be totally unfair. Nobody wants to be graded when learning something new. That’s when fear and hesitancy takes over. That’s when the grade trumps the learning. That’s when creativity is stifled. That’s when collaboration and community break down. That’s when learning for the sake of learning stops.
When students are practicing, my job is to guide their learning. My job is to assess where they are and ascertain how to get them to the next level. I would never teach them a skill and then test them for mastery. I would never assume that all students have the same skill set. I would never expect all students to achieve the same goals. I would never give a prize for being the first to achieve a goal.
Yet those were the expectations I was imposing upon myself.
I get it now.
Yoga is a practice. It is not the means to an end. It is not a competition. It’s a process. It’s just me, living in the moment, and focusing on me.
And that’s why I bought my yoga mat. (Which, by the way, is kind of a big deal.)