After my first class, over two and a half years ago, I continued because, well, I couldn’t not.  It pulled me in.

I kept doing it for the new supple muscles, the clear skin, the stillness, the hard work, the good deep sleep.

I became more comfortable in my own skin.

In year one, I learned how to be “bad” at something and not care.  I learned how to focus entirely on my own practice for 90 minutes and not compare myself to other people in the room.

In year two, I stopped feeling the heat.  Some days I noticed it was there, but most days it didn’t even occur to me that it was over 100 degrees in the hot room.

I learned how to stop forcing my body into the poses, and let it find the poses.  I allowed my body to do what I thought it couldn’t.  I learned not to say “I can’t”.

But as I got more proficient, I also began to attach more to my practice.  I was focused on results.  I pushed hard, driven by a new kind of perfect:  perfect effort, perfect attitude, perfect progress.  I know, weird.

In year three, I’ve worked through two “injuries” and learned how strong my body really is, and how powerful my mind is.  Powerful enough, in fact, to employ a million distractions from feelings I’d rather not acknowledge.

As I’ve made room for those feelings to surface, I encounter even deeper levels of negativity and fear that were always there, hiding from consciousness. One day a few weeks ago, I realized that I’m not over exerted in certain postures, but that I’d been having mini panic attacks before those postures because my brain decided they are “too difficult” (the panic before triangle began a full three postures before).  The panic causes me to breathe too fast or hold my breath.  And when it’s hard to breathe, it’s hard to focus.  And when it’s hard to focus, it’s hard to talk back to the “I can’ts”.  It’s hard to encourage, firmly, my body to hold the poses just a few seconds more.

Last week during standing bow, I got deeper into the posture and held it longer than I ever had.  My brain offered this darling commentary, “It took you almost three years just to get to this point?”.  Boom.  I fell right out.  Couldn’t catch my breath.  I’d never even heard that voice before, now I hear it chatting to me all during class.

When I’m particularly emotional, (on days ending in “y”), the panic returns again and again.  I will sit out a posture if I need a little time to get calm again.  Or for the feelings to crest and release.

I also gave up coffee before class (heart racing makes for poor breath control) and set this intention for my practice:  no matter how well or poorly a posture goes, the only thing I’m going to concentrate on is breathing normally.

I practice non-attachment.  I do not perform.  I experience.

And when I have the experience of a really elegant and strong posture, instead of saying to myself, “Whatever.  You’re so far behnd, anyway.  That took you so much longer than all these other, more fit people with more attractive bodies….so just give up trying so hard…you’ll never be good enough,” I say, “Hey! Look at that!  That was awesome!” and I celebrate a little, and then return to the present moment again.

I don’t even respond to that jerk of a voice.  Because I used to try and show it up, and that just put me into effort again, and the ego cycle continued.

It feels incredible to take deep, relaxed breaths all through class.

Onward!  And thank you to my incredible teachers.  Thank you for holding the space of acceptance for me.