Right Where You Need to Be.
"Stop forcing it. Stop looking around and comparing yourself. You are right where you need to be
I'll never forget those words, spoken to me in my very first power vinyasa class. When I walked into the studio that day, I was clueless, scared, and completely wrapped up in my concern for looking good. In this moment, I can't remember what I was looking for when I went into class that day, but I do know that I didn't expect to find a mantra that I've carried with me to the mat every day since, and certainly not a principle that now, 6 years later, I try to live my entire life by.
Like most new yogis, I had no idea what I was doing during that class. All I knew was that I was being suffocated by the 90 degree heat and intense smell of incense, and that the people next to me were breathing so loud that I couldn't even hear myself think (little did I know, that was sort of the point). I was strong and flexible after many years of competitive swimming, and found that if I looked around, I could pretty much muscle my way into a shape that basically resembled whatever weird contortion the person next to me was doing.
I was faking it, trying to keep up the appearance that I knew what I was doing, had it all together. Meanwhile my mind was going crazy comparing, judging and criticizing myself, and my body was begging me to ease up. I was struggling, fighting, holding my breath, and creating a world of suffering right there on my mat.
Even to this day, after falling in love with yoga and experiencing its transformative effects firsthand, I am shocked by how reflective that first class was of my approach to life at that time. To the untrained eye, I had it all together. I looked from the outside like I knew what I was doing, but inside, I was a total wreck. I spent my days constantly trying to prove to others that I was "good enough" in all areas of my life, and I was always comparing myself--to others, and to my future self.
So many times in life we do this. We aren't happy to be where we are. We see a better future just around the corner, and view the present moment as hinderance to that goal. In our practice, we aren't content to work on squaring our hips in standing splits--we have to make it look like we know how to pop right up into handstand, even if that means we over-shoot and start the domino effect. We think that skipping a chaturanga makes us look weak--so we muscle through it and put strain on our shoulders and trapezius instead of working knees-chest-chin. We want to appear flexible and experienced so we throw ourselves into camel and crunch into our low-backs instead of working on developing the intense core and quad strength necessary for coming into the pose safely and powerfully.
The words my teacher Perry spoke to me that day have had more impact on my life than I can fully express. By bringing them to the mat each time I practiced, I eventually learned to be gentle with myself, and take time to build into poses. I enjoyed slowing down, feeling the slight technicalities of the pose, and felt free and truly powerful when I finally could get into full expressions. Taking that practice off the mat has proved much more difficult, but is one that I work towards every day.
Just this weekend I was telling my mom that I was frustrated because I haven't been able to teach since moving to Park City. While I love my new jobs here, I was feeling discouraged because it didn't feel like I was taking all the necessary steps quickly enough to realize my dream of becoming a full-time yoga teacher and wellness coach. Her words were almost verbatim what Perry told me in that first class-- "Sloane, stop fighting. You're right where you need to be. "
Where in your life are you creating struggle for yourself? By comparing where we are to where we think we should be, we put strain on our relationship with the present moment, and this creates an internal struggle. We can use our practice as a mirror to show us where we are fighting, judging, forcing, and learn to let go, and accept that wherever we are, its right where we need to be.
This post was written by Sloane Pitman. Follow more of her musings at: http://strengthinfreedom.com/