I am, by nature, a competitive person. I have the perfect personality for sports – at least from what I have gathered about sports as a horrifically uncoordinated person who hates to sweat. Maybe if I had been born with unusual upper body strength, or to tyrannical parents, I could have funneled my competitive energy into the world of pro athletics, where laser-like focus and psychopathic behavior is both valued and encouraged. (Guys, everything I know about “sports” I learned from the 1994 Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding incident and mean girls on my childhood swim team.) But since I’m too old to go for the gold and our local kickball league scares me (sample team name: We’ve Got the Runs), I’m forced to release my inner beast in yoga class.
Just to clarify, when a person with limited athletic ability “releases their inner beast” in yoga class, it just means they are looking around the room and comparing themselves to other people. That is how I “compete”. My only impressive physical feat is the ability to feel intense self-loathing while inverted.
Recently, I agreed to take a yoga class with my best pal Mary. At first, things were going fine as I had given Mary a JLo-like order that she was not to look me in the eye for the duration of the class. But when the instructor said that we could go into the half-bridge pose or we could finish the expression and attempt the full wheel, I broke my own rule and gave Mary the ol’ side-eye. I expected her to be the Brooklyn Bridge to my Manhattan Bridge, parallel in our ineptitude, when I noticed her body was formed into a perfect “O”. Like the shape of a person’s mouth when they say, “Ohhhhhh, you are sooooo goood at yooooga.”
I prepared myself to go full contortionist. I wanted to BEAT Mary at yoga, even if it meant snapping every single one of my vertebrae and changing our Saturday night plans from our dorky “healthy cooking night” to a visit to the local emergency room. But instead of forcing my body to victory, or having my ex-husband run in and hit Mary in the knees, I didn’t move. (I also don’t have an ex-husband.) Maybe it was the ujiayi pranayama breathing, maybe it was the exhaustion of moving my body in a way that did not involve guacamole and a Tostitos scoop, but I kept my body where it wanted to be: about a half inch off the ground.
And at that moment, yoga suddenly made sense. I had been coming at it all wrong. My body wasn’t in competition with the other people in my class. MY MIND WAS IN COMPETITION. My eyes darted around the room. “Is that dude with the abs listening to his body? What about that chick with the botanical-themed tattoos?” I thought. “Because I’m really listening to my body. I might be the best at it, actually.”
Image via Shy Thom