The angry yoga practitioner

I first started doing yoga in 2009, when I signed up for a Bikram yoga class. Some people would say that it’s not the best option for a complete newbie to yoga, given how hot the room gets, but I pulled through the first class just fine. The experience wasn’t exactly what I expected from yoga, since it seemed to focus more on the physical aspect, although the heat certainly does wonders for your concentration and your ability to contend with difficult situations. I kept at it for a couple more months until I realized that the class fees were bleeding me dry. But it was good that I got to try it out and learn that the body can do interesting things. The weight I lost wasn’t bad either.

In the interest of fitness, I joined a gym this year, but only stayed for a month since I found it repetitive. So I signed up at another yoga studio which opened just last year, and have so far been at this for only three weeks. But the experience has been nothing short of wonderful. The asanas are different from the ones I picked up in Bikram yoga, challenging me to push my body further and actually complete the ones I find odious (utkatasana, ugh). During my third week, I’d finally gotten up the nerve to execute and complete a wheel pose, then was flipped into a standing position by the teacher. A day later, I also got the nerve up to try doing a headstand–assisted, of course. Having always been on nothing more than a nodding acquaintance with my body, I see these as pretty major breakthroughs.

It’s not only the physical aspect that I find challenging, however, but the mental as well. We’re always told to keep our breathing even and clear the mind of all thought prior to the class, but that is something I’ve never done well. I end up holding my breath for several seconds (it’s an unconscious habit of mine), worrying about something, going down a completely different train of thought, or picking up snatches of a song in my head then singing it all the way through–all in my head, still.

Yoga practitioners also have a reputation for being calm and serene, two adjectives which have never applied to me; I’ve already been told a number of times that the concepts of me and yoga just don’t go together. I’m hoping to make some progress in this aspect, however. I come from a family which seems to have a vein of instability, so it’s important for me to learn, if not how to get rid of my temper altogether, then at least how to go ballistic with precision, and to possess the discernment to know when the right time to go ballistic is.

Despite the hurdles I have yet to overcome, I’m learning not to be too hard on myself, like when I can’t fully execute an asana, when I fail to quiet my mind completely, and when I’m unable to hold my temper. Fortunately, I’ve also learned that these will all come in time and that there’s no reason for me to pressure myself–and realizing that is also, for me, another breakthrough.