Last Monday morning I found myself staring at the email my sister sent to me with the subject line: “Your Yoga Sequence.” My yoga sequence. Gulp. For a moment, I didn’t want to open it. It was like getting tagged in a game when you were a kid and I was never a great play-with-the-other-kids kind of kid. (I was more of a read-in-a-corner or play-pretend-with-my-siblings kind of kid.) In school, I winced whenever it was time for P.E. I never engaged in any sport or even performance arts of any kind unless it was compulsory. Both were in the same league for me—should you fail, you fail in front of everyone. Fast forward more than two decades later and I have never enrolled in any class that involved stretching, sweating or doing some other sort of workout with a group of people. Call it a different variety of stage fright, the stage being a yoga class, spinning class, a wall-climbing class, a Pilates class—all of which I tried once or twice, usually for the love of a magazine story I had to do.
When my sister started attending a yoga class two years ago, she started encouraging me to enroll as well. She’s such a devotee, she was invited to a yoga teacher training class. And as a teacher in training she was, in turn, being encouraged by her instructor to start teaching. And who should be her first student, but me. I actually liked yoga the first time I tried it, though I had so many excuses not to go to a class. Bottom line: I was comfortable in my sedentary routine and I never fully overcame that P.E. class fear. I had a Yoga for Beginners video and thought surely I could do it by myself at home. I did for a couple of months and stopped. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it correctly and I was too lazy to find out.
My sister offering to give me personalized yoga classes certainly eliminated the fear of being in a class from the fitness equation. But can I sustain it? Will my couch potato ways take over? She started teaching me yoga two weeks ago. Once a week, when the family gets together, we roll out our mats in my mom’s living room. In the past two occasions my mom, while my thighs were spread out in a squat and my palms were pressed in salutation for a garland pose, remarked: “Maybe this yoga will help you get pregnant.” My biggest concern then was just being able to hold the position, as my sister supported me from behind to make sure I wouldn’t fall over my back.
Since we were only meeting once a week, she told me I should practice the series of poses she was teaching me on my own. Hence, the email of my yoga sequence. Another person was committed to helping me do yoga, how could I not commit to it now. Start with the half-lotus, do seated sun salutation, mountain pose, tree pose, garland pose (keep falling on my butt for the garland pose), downward facing dog, warrior pose, a few more different poses until finally the corpse pose, wherein every muscle in my body is so grateful that the stretching and exertion it’s so unfamiliar with is over it relaxes and induces me to sleep. I suddenly remembered why I liked yoga before.
I know I have to overcome that being-in-a-fitness-class fear eventually—or really, the fear of failing. For now though I first have to overcome reverting back to that seductive sedentary life. Try to commit myself to this—the breathing, the salutations, stretching, and relaxing. Try to not be so afraid of falling. Or failing. Try. Like my brave and determined sister who’s teaching me that there is “a way to land from a fall properly, and to even come out…laughing.”