Before I began practicing yoga in earnest, and long before I became a teacher, I must admit that I had a preconceived idea about yoga. I thought there were exactly two types of people who practiced yoga; skinny, rich, shallow white women in ridiculously expensive stretch pants, and skinny, poor, deeply enlightened brown men in modest white loin cloths. I had no desire to become the former, and for obvious reasons, no chance of becoming the latter.
When I first began my practice, I felt out of place. Walking into the studio with it’s seemingly successful, happy and well-dressed yogis, listening to the cheery, trouble-free chitchat, and rolling out my cheapo yoga mat, left me feeling a bit uneasy. I wore heavy men’s sweatpants and a white cotton tank top and it didn’t take long before I was a sweaty, ridiculously frustrated, and somewhat embarrassed mess. The entire experience left me feeling out of my league; both physically and financially. I felt out of my percieved class and I almost didn’t go back. But I did.
I slowly began to realize that all this ‘stuff’ that I was feeling was my own insecurity. All the preconceived ideas I had about yoga, my aversion to being thought of as that ‘type’ of person (or worse, my fear of not being as good as that ‘type’ of person), and my resistance...oh my resistance, was all my own yucky stuff rising to the surface. It didn’t always feel good, but I kept going back. I noticed that the only time I wasn’t distracted by all this stuff was when I was actually on my mat, in my breath and practicing. I’m not saying I didn’t do the occasional looking around, but the self-consciousness of not fitting in or being good enough was somehow eclipsed by the breath, the movement, and the practice. I found little moments of relief and though I may not have been consciously aware of what was happening, my spirit was, and I kept going back.
Yoga is magic, it is brilliant and it has the power to transform. I realized that all of us has stuff that we carry around, no matter where we come from, and although my stuff may not look like your stuff, chances are, it feels pretty much the same. The more I practiced, the more I felt connected. I felt a genuine amity, gratitude and a deep compassion towards my fellow yogis. What I have come to understand is that yoga doesn’t judge, doesn’t discriminate, and doesn’t categorize. It meets each yogi exactly where they are; the good, the bad, the shallow and the enlightened and reminds me that there is exactly one type of person who practices yoga; human.