We all start in the same place.
As part of my New Year’s Resolution to be a better version of myself, I committed to a 1 Year Yoga Challenge whereby I will practice yoga regularly for a year to transform my body in the way that all yogi literature says it would. When I signed up for my first yoga class at Pure Yoga in Shanghai 3 weeks ago, I filled out a questionnaire that asked me, “What do you want to get out of yoga?” And like most people, I ticked all the same boxes: to be flexible, to lose weight, to relieve stress, to feel more energetic, to meditate and to be stronger. I was given a tour of the beautiful yoga facilities and had all the rules explained to me. And in the hour that I was there signing up for my 1-year yoga membership, a flock of women came out of a yoga class, skin glistening, bodies toned and I thought, “This is going to be great. I’m going to look like that. Skinny bitches, here I come.”
But first things first.
Before my first class, I prepared by buying myself a super cute yoga outfit. As recommended, I did not eat 2 hours before class and following suggestion, I drank a glass of water before class. And in my lavender Lululemon Energy sports bra (with matching Lululemon Swiftly headband) and black GAP Athleta yoga pants, I went to my first class.
Reality sets in.
I’m not fit. I’m not flexible. I’m not strong. And my first yoga class made this all very clear to me. As a room of thin, lean, Chinese girls proceeded to bend and twist and sustain poses, I had to concentrate all my energy on breathing. Stretching was hard. Holding a pose was hard. Twisting was hard. I begin to rethink my 1-year membership that I just signed up for.
Shiva, our instructor, is a petite little woman who wouldn’t make huge impression on you. Except when she lifts herself up on one arm, opens her legs into perfect splits and then twists her whole body around to face the other way, all the while smiling and talking you through each step.
“Push yourself to try new things. Not everyone can do this, but one day you will be able to also,” she says. This I don’t believe. I cannot imagine a future where I can do what she just did. Through pose after pose, I watch as Shiva demonstrates the beginners poses, then proceeds to twist, bend, and lift herself up into the advanced version of the pose.
And then a moment of enlightenment.
We’re moving into balancing poses and as a beginner, I get to start with the Tree Pose. For those who don’t speak yoga, this is standing on one straight leg, the other foot snuggled as high as possible on the thigh, palms together in front of the heart. Basically standing on one foot. This I can do.
As we all stand there, a room of flamingoes, Shiva says “We all start in the same place.” And as I look at my reflection in the mirror and that of my fellow yogis, I understand every grain of truth in that sentence. The class will proceed to advanced versions of this pose, but as I stand there I feel serene knowing that indeed we all started in the same place.
Wisdom comes like grains of sand.
I think of all the girls in my class, of Shiva who might have been born a yogi. And the idea that everyone’s journey started in the same place is both humbling and inspiring. This first class, this is where I begin. This is where the negativity ends and the discovery begins. I’m not strong now, but from this day forward, I am working on it. I might not feel flexible today, but everyday I’m a little bit more.
I’ve been going to yoga for the past 3 weeks and already, I feel like I have come far from this first class. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in beginners classes and I just barely get through each one. But when I step onto my mat at the beginning of each class, I tell myself, “We all start in the same place.” Where I take it from there, is up to me.
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