Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why is it whenever we try something new we think we must do it well right away? I was thinking about these questions while trying to make it through an inversions class.
I have taken inversions classes before this last one, and in every one I felt like I was hopeless. When I walked into a class last week and the instructor said we would be focusing on inversions, my heart sank.
I know that in yoga we are encouraged to work at our own level – even so, I didn’t want to be (again) the only person that can’t get up into the headstand.
Right away I started thinking of excuses. “I’m not strong enough in my core.” “I don’t have the arm strength”, “I have an old neck injury so I can’t do this”. (Even though it hasn’t bothered me for years).
This time, though, I was determined to ignore the voices of doubt and to give myself a chance to succeed. What was I so worried about anyway? If I don’t try then I will never succeed, so I have to at least try.
So I went into the pose with the idea of just trying, not invested in any outcome, just making a sincere effort. You know what? I would like to say I got right up into that headstand but I didn’t. Some people did. A lot of people did. I got about halfway up and then panicked and had to come back down. I made progress, though. I got halfway up, so I am halfway there.
Why did I stop halfway? I don’t know. I think maybe my ego is holding me back. I think I am afraid of not meeting my own expectations. I am not afraid to fall, I am afraid to fail.
I thought about it. When was the last time I really took a chance and stepped outside of my comfort zone? Not too often. It was time for me to try my best and accept that if I “fail” it will not be the end of my practice or my life.
If I don’t give myself the chance to succeed. I will never get more than halfway there.
I was reminded of a passage from the Bhagavad Gita: “”No effort on the path of yoga is ever lost, nor can any obstacle hold one back forever. Even the smallest progress can protect one from the greatest of fears.”
This was particularly relevant to my struggle with inversions, when I feel like I am not working hard enough. It reminded me to be grateful for what I can do. It also reminded me to focus on making progress. If I continually work at my level, never pushing past that to the edge, I won’t make any progress. If I continue to avoid inversions, I will never get them.
It was with this in mind that I greeted the next inversion in yoga class with an intention to make progress. You know what? I did. I actually got all the way up into headstand for about a second before I lost my balance. Progress! I am now more than halfway up and well on my way to an inversion. I am now looking forward to inversions during class and am practicing them more at home and I am making progress.