For the past four years I have been practicing yoga.
Or I should I have allowed yoga to practice me.
I was introduced to yoga practice in my late teens, when my sister dragged me to a small hot yoga class in Oceanside, California.
I felt discouraged, as many first time yogis do. But why?
I walked in and found a small spot in the back where I thought I would be unnoticed. As I rolled out my sister’s hand-me down yoga mat, I started to discreetly gaze around the room at the bodies I would be practicing with. I greeted my reflection in the mirror, resembling a deer in headlights.
My inner critic began to pollute my mind.
Why is she wearing just a sports bra and how does she fit perfectly in those tights?
I was utterly embarrassed. I looked down at my baggy sweatpants from WalMart and old oversized t-shirt in my small figure. Yikes. I was already sweating and class hadn’t even started yet. I wanted to quietly tiptoe out the door. But something told me to stay and do the practice. Maybe it was pride or maybe it was curiosity.
Whatever it was, I regretted it automatically. In every single pose I was looking at everyone else. I don’t even think I looked at myself once during the entire practice.
How is she so flexible? Why does she have a six pack already? She must be around my age. Maybe it’s the kind of pants she is wearing that make her fly.
I was self-sabotaging. I was obsessing over what I did not have. I swore I would never go to another yoga practice again. Until a few years later.
I began working with kids at the YMCA. Children possess the one truth that adults crave: the ability to live fully in the present. I decided to dip into the one thing I swore I would never do—but this time, with a different perspective. I proceeded with caution into beginner yoga classes with my new mindset, and also with new yoga pants. After I thought long and hard about splurging on a quality pair, I began to accept the fact that maybe I will never look like that flying yogi on my first day of class with a perfect bum and a ready-made six pack. I accepted and allowed myself to be a beginner.
This newly adopted mindset of living in the present moment helped me tremendously. It took a lot of practice to focus only on myself in the mirror, and not compare my pants to anyone else’s in the room. Simply put, yoga is not about the cool poses or the type of pants we wear, but about confronting and shaking hands with the biggest critic of all—the person we all fear in the mirror: ourselves.
Author: Maria Jungers
Image: courtesy of the author
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock