My biggest hurdle beginning yoga classes. Hint: It wasn’t the poses

I began my yoga journey about six years ago. At that time, I was running a fairly successful massage therapy practice in Ontario. I had a beautiful, large studio-style location and I decided to subcontract instructors to begin teaching various classes to use the space. One of those instructors was a yoga teacher that was very well known in my area. I started promoting the classes and soon realized that I couldn’t very well “talk the talk” without “walking the walk” so I decided I should at least try out a class or two.
I was a single parent, self employed and under tremendous stress. My schedule was hectic. I had many excuses but I figured I could definitely use the stretch and I knew that I could probably use the relaxation.
So I took the plunge. I went to an evening class. The teacher helped set me up with a mat and props. The lights were dim and the music was soft. The class wasn’t all that large and I felt comfortable.
I was no stranger to group fitness but I knew that my job as an RMT was pretty physical and my body was stiff. What if I can’t do the poses? I thought.
The teacher began the class with a guided relaxation. “Close your eyes” she said. “Open your hearts and begin focusing on your breath” “allow yourself to find comfort in stillness, stillness of the body and stillness in the mind” She spoke softly. She was creating a nice atmosphere. “I can do this” I thought with a cocky tone in my head. Then she began saying things like “ignore the outside world” and ” leave the stress of the day at the door, it will be there waiting for you when you’re done.” In my head I was thinking “check and check!” Her instructions followed with an affirmation of sorts “I am breathing in , I am breathing out. Nothing more to think about, nothing more required…just breathe” Then she stopped speaking altogether .
In my head I started to repeat the last phrase she had spoken. “I am breathing in , I am breathing out”. And then it happened. It was quite overwhelming actually. My mind started being bombarded with thoughts. “I should really call so n so back ” ” Don’t forget to email so n so” “We’re out of milk, better pick some up” “oh and the dry cleaning, don’t forget that”and so on and so on. The teacher left us alone for a few minutes to focus on our breath and I was beginning to really struggle. I started to get annoyed with myself. “I should be able to do this” I thought. After all, I taught people how to relax on my massage table on daily basis. What was my problem? Then, I had this hurried feeling like “ok lady let’s hurry this up and move on to the yoga part” Wow, I had a lot to learn! I was so concerned with getting on with the poses. I was uncomfortable with the “stillness” she was trying to have us experience. I began to itch and scratch and fidget on my mat. This “stillness” she spoke of was clearly foreign territory for me. I was so busy with the hustle ‘n bustle of life that taking a few minutes to quiet my mind was actually starting to stress me out. Quite a bit,actually.

She then led the class through a gentle, easy to follow, series of stretching poses. I was learning new things so my mind was still active. I wasn’t super bendy, I certainly had room for improvement but this I felt comfortable with.

Then she instructed us to lay in Corpse Pose for the final Savasana, or guided relaxation. “Oh here we go again” I thought to myself. She began instructing us through a guided relaxation. She used phrases that were similar to the first relaxation part. My mind was far from “still” but it was certainly slowing down a little, I noted to myself.

She slowly brought us out of the relaxation and instructed is to make our way into a seated position to “seal” our practice with a bow in Namaste. “Whatever that meant” I thought.

I went home with a different mindset. I certainly felt calmer. I slept the best I had in many months. I quickly realized that I needed more of this “relaxation” stuff. Luckily, I enjoy a challenge and I made up my mind I was going back to yoga. I wasn’t going to let the frustration win. I was going to work on it and find the elusive “stillness”.
I’m not going to lie and say it was all “easy peasy”from there. The next few weeks of regular classes had their hurdles. I certainly still had trouble quieting my mind. But there were moments of stillness.
After a couple more weeks those moments were lingering around a little longer and eventually, with practice, it came with ease. So much so, that found myself responding to the first guided relaxation like Pavlov’s dog. I began to associate my mat with relaxation. Mat = Shutting down my mind and letting go. In future classes the teacher would begin her guided relaxation and after five to ten breaths I was able to get into my “yoga zone” that state of relaxation and stillness that I once thought nearly impossible. I had found my bliss. The end result was worth the struggle. This bliss and state of ease became my drug of choice. I had found a positive way to cope with all of my stress. Stillness was my new best friend.
When was the last time you sat in stillness? I’d like to hear about your experiences.