I walked into the room and it smelled like feet.
I had complained about the heat outside all day, and here I was walking into a room even hotter, willingly, and I’d be in it for 90 minutes. No escape.
But I was all in. I’m no good at yoga at all. I was the world’s least flexible cheerleader, so contorting my body is not my forte. But I love the way yoga makes me feel when I’m finished, and I love trying things I’m no good at and getting just even a little better.
The instructor was the epitome of what you would think a yoga instructor should be – calm, tall, lean, bull hoop nose ring. Before the class started, she welcomed the “new girl” – me.
Great, everyone will be watching me. Now, I can’t mess up.
That’s how we sometimes walk through life – worried that everyone is watching and all our moves have to be graceful and beautiful and perfect. And the reality is, when we start moving and the heat kicks in, we will just be doing the best we can, sweating with messy hair the whole time.
And sometimes, life will be really hot and smell like feet, but we just have to get past it and ignore the smell.
The walls were all mirrored, so no matter where I looked, there I was. For most of the positions, our focal point was supposed to be our own eyes in the mirror.
Instead of looking around or looking down, we just needed to look into our own eyes to stay balanced and centered. It was very hard to do because my eyes were small and far away and hard to focus on, but every time I did it, I was more peaceful.
But sometimes, I would watch the girls in front of me, trying to make sure I was doing the poses correctly. I would end up just trying to keep up with them and comparing myself to them and feeling bad when I couldn’t stretch quite as far as they could. I would feel like everyone was watching me be not-so-great and just kind of average while someone else was soaring.
Then it hit me as more sweat rolled into my eyes – No one was watching me. They were all focused on themselves and their own struggles and strengths, and they had their own thoughts going on in their heads that didn’t concern me or anyone else failing or excelling.
After each round of poses was completed twice, we would lie down and rest. Just as soon as I would get rested, the instructor would intensely say, “Sit up,” and then she would spout off the instructions: “Toes and heels together, arms above the head, thumbs crossed, reach your toes, double exhale.” It was surprising and a little overwhelming each time. I was just never ready, but I had to do it to get to the next pose.
Isn’t that how life hits us? We get comfortable and rested, and then boom! We get instructions shouted at us and we have to sit up and get uncomfortable again before we can move on to the next step and reach comfort again. It’s a cycle, and we have to stay calm and focused and be ready for surprises or it will keep sneaking up on us. We have to find comfort no matter the situation or what we are being told to do.
When I would mess up, I would breathe in, wipe the sweat off, and just try again, or I would modify the pose instead of straining myself to do something my body couldn’t do. That’s the trick – we have to wipe off the sweat and take a moment for ourselves, then we have to keep going. Even if what we are doing isn’t the most perfect move, it’s the best move we can make.
At times – a lot of times – I wanted to quit and walk out of that awfully hot room. I felt weak and I just wanted to lay down (in a tub of ice). But the energy around me kept me going, the instructor’s voice kept me going, the voice in my head kept me going.
Just when I really thought I couldn’t do it for one more second, when I was only 2 poses away from completing all 26, the instructor said, “Get out of your head. Put the negative thoughts away…only positive energy.” And suddenly, I had a renewed strength.
God is telling us that every day. He is telling us to put those thoughts away and just be. He renews the strength so you can finish the day. And you can finish it better than ever.
I know my mind was supposed to rest and be silent during the hottest yoga session on earth, but I had so many things revealed to me as I was bent up like a pretzel in a 100-degree, mirrored-wall room. Sometimes, when we aim to still our minds, we can hear things loud and clear that we normally can’t hear because of our own voices.
Basically, it was hot, I sweated more than I ever have even on the hottest day of the year, I wanted to quit, and I was unsure of myself so many times, but I finished. I finished and I felt so amazing when I was done. And the women who I thought would look down on me – they came to me to tell me how well I had done. They said they would have never known it was my first time.
Chances are, no one is looking down on you and talking about how terribly you’re doing life. If they are, they aren’t focused on their own lives, and they’ll lose their own balance.
Do the best you can with what you have. Rid your mind of the negativity and the comparisons, and focus on your own eyes. Then, you’ll see yourself for the really cool person you really are that is way more flexible with this whole life thing than you ever even knew.
So, roll your mat out, embrace the heat and the weird smell, and reach as far as you possibly can.