Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Tricks: We Can Learn

I've mentioned yoga here a couple times, like here and here, and most recently here, but I've been thinking about lessons it's teaching me. Today I want to tell you about one of the biggies. 

As a girl, I couldn't do a cartwheel. Or a headstand. Or swim or bike, but that's a whole different story. I felt skill-less when it came to my body. I could study and make grades. I could mingle with peers, but if it had anything to do with physical prowess, I felt dread. Big humiliating dread of being found out and demonstrating my shortcomings again

When I got to high school, being an athlete was associated with crazy things like being coordinated and having some idea how far away that softball was and lining up your body with it! The latter landed me in right field, praying none of my classmates were lefties. The worst thing about team sports was, my lack of skills affected my friends. I wanted to shake my fist at the world and ask, "This is what we do for fun?!" Sheesh.

Then a P.E. teacher came along and introduced me to the idea of fitness. She told us she exercised so she could live a full life without the health problems that come with inactivity. It occurred to me the sports I was forced to play weren't the only path to health and I decided I'd find the one the right one for me. This took me on a journey, trying aerobics, running, pilates, and more. I'd always wondered about yoga, but it seemed expensive and that didn't fit in my life until I was desperate for help losing my renovation weight. Did you think I was going to say twin baby weight? That wasn't quick either (it took me two years), but losing at thirty was a whole new world. I signed up at the YMCA to try yoga. 

The first day, my legs trembled from being in poses and pulsing. After all this pulsing, the teacher told us to go to the wall and flip our legs up in a headstand. Ha! These legs? The ones that feel like they weigh two hundred pounds each and are made of jello? That's ridiculous. And yet, when I looked around the room, people were doing it. I tried and panted and wondered and panted some more. 

Months later, I could do things I couldn't do before. I wasn't dying as much during class. Poses that felt impossible and foreign, became familiar enough my body could slip into them. I started to know what the teacher meant when she said the names of poses, which gave me a chance to concentrate on breathing. Since breathing gives us energy to do life, things got much better. 

At first, I was mortified to see myself in the mirrors during class. "That's what I look like in yoga pants? I thought it was better than that!" My twin skin would bulge over the top of my waistband and I'd cringe. (Still do to some extent.) But after seeing myself over and over, I started to accept how I looked. I got used to it. 

Then I started to see myself in poses that were kind of beautiful. Like the triangle pose. 

Which makes me feel like this:

You know, epic. When my teacher first adjusted me so I was properly "in" this pose, I felt like I'd fall backward any minute. To go from that place to feeling my body balancing, opened a door for me. I didn't have to feel frustration with my body anymore. I could start to wonder at what it was able to do and learn. When I faced challenges elsewhere I'd tell myself, "If my body can learn to do something it's never done before, maybe it can do this too."

The main lesson for me was this: A poor track record doesn't mean your future has to be bleak. You're not doomed - even in the area you gave up on long ago. With the right resources and loving support, you can do amazing things. Not anything you set your mind to, but the thing you were meant to do. I will never be an athlete who can play multiple sports and bring my team success. But I'll be strong and flexible and agile when I'm eighty, which is what I really want from this thing called exercise. To be able to do what I want to do, for as long as possible.  

Yoga's proved to me I can learn. Not just my brain, but my body. This has been such an area of doubt for me; I've habitually felt a lack of confidence. "Does it require my body? Crap." That was how my self-talk went. Well, not any more. I fluctuate, for sure. When a teacher introduces something new, I do sometimes think, "Seriously?" But there are actually times when I think, "Hmm...maybe I can. I'll definitely try." And when I fall on my butt, I think, "Maybe someday." And I open my heart to hoping and the possibility. Which feels really good. 

I recently started an Instagram challenge where I do an inversion (upside-down yoga pose) every day. I don't actually get to it every day and I'm pretty sure I can't do the one they've posted for today, but I'm having fun. If you'd like to follow me, you can see what I'm up to on Instagram or Twitter. Here's a picture of my favorite so far. 

Believe in your wonderful body. Or whatever your Achilles heel is: your IQ, your attention span, your social skills. No matter how you feel this part of you has let you down, it doesn't deserve your scrutiny or rejection. You may not have found its magic yet, but it's phenomenal. As are you. All of you.


  1. Very cool, Kendra. Those inversions are pretty awesome. Good for you!

  2. Love this! I know that negative self-talk about my body, too. Thanks for sharing your story.