Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I started doing Yoga again this morning. I first started last Spring when I took a class taught by my friend and massage therapist, JoAnn. It was 2 nights a week after work, and I went religiously. It was a fabulous class and a fabulous experience. I’ve been intending to start it again on my own for months but have had 15 million excuses as to why I can’t do it ‘today.’ This morning my excuses ran out.

Part of what I liked so much about the class was how absolutely bad I was when the class started (I’m remembering that feeling vividly today!) and how much better I was so quickly (which I’m praying happens again!) Yoga is a clear testimony to that old and rather irritating adage that practice makes perfect or, at least in this case, it makes better and less painful.

Another thing I liked about class was the completely selfish nature of it. The focus is all on you. JoAnn was clear in her instructions at the beginning of and throughout each class that the point is not to compare yourself with anyone or anything. You are to be where you are and make no excuses or apologies for it. You are to focus on what you are able to do – not on what someone else is able to do.

Of course, at first, that was impossible. I have been conditioned by my years in American culture which stress that what is important is how you compare to everyone around you. So, regardless of her instruction not to – I did. I compared myself to what I thought I should be able to do. I compared myself to others in the class. I felt bad when I couldn’t do what another person could, and I felt shamefully good when I was better than someone else – particularly when that someone was thinner than I and who should have been, therefore, automatically better at this.

Amazingly, that comparison stopped relatively quickly. Perhaps it was her gentle repetition of the instruction, perhaps it was that feeling bad about how you compare to others gets old really quickly, but I really did begin to focus. I stopped thinking about and looking at the other people in the room. I started to think about myself. I started to think about how I was stretching. I started to think about my breathing. I started to think about my balance. And, as I started to focus on those things, they all began to improve. And, they began to improve quickly.

This morning when I plugged in the DVD and began, I forgot all those things and my first thought was the old comparison – how bad I was now, compared to how good I was the last time I did this. That thought was a little depressing (okay - a lot), and for many people might have been enough to make them turn off the DVD and reach for coffee and a donut. But then JoAnn (on DVD) began her instructions – don’t compare yourself, work where you are, don’t try to push yourself beyond your current ability, work slowly and improvement will come. And I remembered the focus. So I started. I started to focus on my breathing. I started to focus on my stretching, my movement, my position. An hour disappeared as I thought about nothing more than those things. When I was done, I was calm, relaxed, and I felt good about what I had done.

The lesson of Yoga is one that seems significant enough for me to take other places. At work – focus. There is no need to compare myself to another – my job is to do the best I can, and as I focus on that I will become better. In relationship – focus. I can’t compare this relationship to a past one or to someone else’s. My job is to be the best I can be here – in this relationship. It’s true for us all. We can only do what we can do. We can only improve if we start where we are. Whatever the circumstance, focus and relax, and you will be who and what you are intended to be.

If you're interested in JoAnn's yoga DVD, here's her contact information:
DVD's are $15 plus shipping.

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