It happens. It’s no big deal. In the 17 years, I have been practicing yoga, I have been not practicing yoga for about half of that.
I would look at my mat and feel kind of mean and defensive and guilty all at the same time, like when I am mad at someone because I am embarrassed about a mistake I made with them.
Dude. it takes a butt-load of courage to practice yoga and some days I don’t have it. Somedays my practice is beautiful and inspiring and somedays I fight myself the whole time. The thing is I never know what it will be like until I face the mat.
Doing yoga can be courageous act for many many types of bodies and the minds that come with them, but I am willing to go out on a limb and say it is particularly courageous for a large body to come to the mat. All the other bodies are important and good, but I have a large one and I know something about that.
It is courageous because when we practice, we are fully in our bodies. We are daring to visit the places in our bodies that we are ashamed of, that hurt us, that we are angry about, that have disappointed us, that make us feel inadequate. We challenge our mobility and stability and strength when we have been assumed to be weak. Maybe we even believe we are weak. We revisit our injuries and their pain. Practicing in a large body is courageous because nobody ever wants to feel those feelings ever again, but we know the only way out of those feelings is through them.
There is no place to hide on the mat, so there we are in it with our bodies. Our minds are looking for an exit, so our only real allies in this endeavor are our breath and our community.
Every time our bodies scream to leave the mat, we fill ourselves with air and magnetize our feet to the ground, exhaling doubt and fear. After enough breaths, our mind quiets and our bodies find some ease.
If we can stay for long enough, we might forget everything we ever heard about the wrongness of our bodies and what it might mean about our value or character. If we stay for even longer and let the breath carry us through our practice we often find actual joy in our bodies.
We need our community to see our courage and nurture it. We need our teachers to know that on some days, unrolling the mat is the “peak pose”. People with large bodies need to have community with each other. We need to remember that yoga is not a reward for being thin and beautiful. We need to see the beauty in one another’s practice so that we can see our own beauty. We need to borrow strength from one another when we don’t have it.I feel like I have turned a corner around feeling shitty about my practice. Sometimes I don’t make it to my mat and when that happens, there are definitely physical, mental, and energetic consequences, but I know how to recover from them. Sometimes I need to spend my time practicing yoga in other ways so I meditate, breathe, sing, clean, I honor my loved ones, nourish myself, and enjoy nature. The mat is just one tool. A powerful one, but it’s not all of yoga.
But here is the thing, once we decide to do yoga, to unite every part of ourselves, that is what we are doing. The wheel has been set in motion and we are moving. Part of honoring that process might be acknowledging our edges, observing them and honoring them. If we come to an edge on our mat, we don’t have to rush to push past it. It’s ok to stop and examine that edge. If our edge happens when we are trying to make time or muster the will to get to our mat, then we can be patient with that edge too.
I am not suggesting that we give up, I am suggesting that we don't fight ourselves in the moment. Instead we can stay in the struggle until it yields. We get to inch our way closer to what we desire with great patience. We all get to where we need to be.