I’ll never forget my first Bikram hot yoga class.
I remember feeling like I wanted so bad to be a part of the community. I wanted to be one of those Lululemon wearing, bike riding, sushi eating Vancouver yogis. So I faked it.
I faked every last minute of it, a skill I was almost way too good at. Walking into the studio wearing my Lulus I almost made it seem like I worked there. It helped that I was friends with half of the staff. I smelled my way through the long corridor into the sweating oasis where I would spend the next 90 minutes of my life comparing, judging and truly pushing myself to be as much like the group as I could.
For me, that was yoga. Yoga wasn’t about body-acceptance or mind-body connection. Yoga was about wearing the right clothes, doing the positions perfectly and looking mighty fine all the while. The good part about this was that faking it takes a lot of energy—and sweat. In hot yoga it’s almost impossible to differentiate between the fakers and the real Bikram yogis, we all looked the same; drenched in salty water.
Don’t get me wrong—in that moment, I thought I loved it. I loved feeling like I was successfully competing in something that I didn’t do all of the time. Not only could I do all of the positions and sequences but in my opinion, I rocked them. So much so, that I think people probably thought I was a regular. However, it was what happened after that which indicated what was going on during the class.
I soon fell into a complete state of judgment, criticism and darkness. Immediately I would find my mind jumping ahead and thinking about how my body would look and feel after 30 days of non-stop hot yoga. Every day sweating, moving, extending, holding, breathing, and disappearing. I loved that Bikram involved not eating before, so that you would avoid common first-timer symptoms of “vomiting or nausea”. Of course, I mostly abstained from eating after too—to maintain this amazing light feeling I achieved throughout the 90 minutes.
For years, that was yoga to me. Judgment, comparison, competitiveness and image. It was a constant state of jealously and envy. All I wanted was to be one of the yogi teachers; rocking this skin tight pants like they were born in them and just making everything in the lifestyle so seamless.
Thinking back, it’s no surprise I didn’t get insanely addicted to yoga.
In fact, I had a lot of resistance to it. There was something about it that exhausted me. Before I would get myself to a class I would spend hours contemplating whether or not I would go. For some reason it was different to the gym for me.
I was a gym master. I knew how to identify the stories of resistance and how to push past it. Of course, I also had an unhealthy and obsessive relationship with the gym. I even worked at the gym to substantiate all the time spent there.
You see, I grew up with severe eating disorders and exercise was very much an extension of the disease. Exercise was the only way that I could feel a release and balance out any “bad” I had done in that week (eating.) During and after recovery, I took an exercise hiatus for a few years, minus a couple classes here and there. Instead of obsessively sweating daily, I opted for daily walks and enjoyment, something that I continue to love and follow in my life.
And then I went to yoga with a man named Cameron. And for the first time, ever, it wasn’t about yoga.
I was blown away. This beautiful blonde haired man rocked my world as he took us through a yoga class, in which the whole time I spent not one minute looking at other’s bodies and comparing them to mine.
Instead, my mind was immersed in the philosophy of life, the universe, the stars and all of existence in between. I left that class and suddenly the thoughts and stories around doing 30 days of yoga and having this amazing post-30-day-yoga-challenge body weren’t there. Or, to be honest, they were, but they were so very quiet. Something shifted. Yoga had a new face.
This is the thing about life, just because you go through a transformative experience, doesn’t mean that your mind, or your past is erased. You are still you. You are still the sum of all parts. You carry your memories, thoughts and beliefs from before. This is where life gets interesting. This is where the dance truly takes place. This is where resistance becomes the topic at hand.
What is resistance? It’s fighting something that continues to rear its ugly face. Something that you don’t want in your life, or that you are hiding from. I believe that we are here to learn a lesson, to evolve. And until that evolution takes place, we will continue to learn the same lessons and experience the same patterns, dressed in different costumes and bringing up different feelings. When these patterns come up where does your focus go? What is your reaction? Do you go into resistance? Do you fight the pain, emotion, feelings and thoughts, do you follow the stories, or do you surrender?
I was watching Kathryn Budig’s (author of newly released Aim True) interview on Lewis Howe’s School of Greatness podcast the other day and was so enlightened by what she said about yoga. She talked about how yoga is a reflection of life: in that you begin in child’s pose (birth), you go through a sequence of asanas, some of which are easier than others, some days are easier than others and the key is to breath through it and witness your body during your practice. It all ends in savasana, which literally means, corpse pose.
When you begin to think about the fact that yoga is a metaphor for life you can really start to change the way that you approach yoga, and the way that you approach life. More and more people are emphasizing the importance of having a daily yoga practice, and I think for the first time, I get it. The idea is to show up, regardless of how you’re feeling, because that is a reflection of life itself. Just because you aren’t feeling great, or don’t look your best (according to your mind) doesn’t mean that you should hide from life.
Life is here to be lived in each moment, not perfectly. To me, this is what yoga is about.
Yoga is here for us to know ourselves. To know what lies beneath, and to know how changeable energy is. We can’t hold onto everything, in fact, we can’t hold onto anything. One day you may rock out the best headstand of your life and the next you can’t even get yourself into crow pose. That’s life. Yoga isn’t about being perfect or being anybody else but who you are in that moment.
Today, I started the day in resistance. Resistance of how I felt and resistance to how I think I am going to feel. This is such a slippery slope because the truth is that we do not know how anything is going to turn out. We literally don’t know anything about the future. Tarot cards, fortune tellers and psychics—their visions are based on the energy of now.
Everything is up for the possibility of change. So why base your present feelings on what you think may happen when that may in fact change. How is that your business?
“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Since embracing these concepts yoga has become much more enjoyable for me. And no surprises here, I have found myself in much more interesting and inspiring classes with incredible teachers. Whether it has been a vinyasa flow, kundalini, all-out-dance-yoga class, or hatha style—it has been about nothing more than witnessing my body and myself in that moment.
Again, this doesn’t mean that I don’t have a mind and never judge or compare. I do. However, I notice it and depending on what’s going on and how I’m feeling, I either get consumed for a moment, laugh at it or truly just let it be there and it dissolves.
That is what resistance isn’t. When you stop resisting, you are taking away a charge and giving space for something else. When you stop resisting, that thing that has caused you pain and kept you stuck can exist in non-existence. It can disappear in silence.
Yoga is the silence. Yoga is the movement. Yoga is the energy. Yoga is your body. Yoga is judgment. Yoga is comparison. Yoga is life. Yoga is you.
That is why I now love yoga.
Author: Chloe Elgar
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Photo:rufai ajala / Flickr