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Are There Bad Yoga Days?

December 4, 2012

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Trying to change ourselves doesn’t work in the long run because we’re resisting our own energy. Self-improvement can have temporary results, but lasting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as the source of wisdom and compassion.
– Pema Chodron

Last week I set as a goal attending five yoga classes. Class #4, a hot class, was, well, a disaster, yoga-wise. I have been doing hot yoga for nearly two years (here and around the country), other forms of yoga for nearly 20, and that class was, by almost any definition a flop, literally.

Leave aside my falling over in triangle and again from another pose; leave aside that I could not balance on one leg – either leg – or that I was stumbling around like a drunken sailor throughout the class.

The really bad yoga was entirely between my ears.

It was a bad yoga because I spent so much time in class being hard on myself for not being able to do what I had just done the day before with some – not much, just some – grace and finesse.

“WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?” I kept thinking. In 24 hours I lost the ability to balance, be still and focus. And I thought, “Oh my goodness, what if this is it?? All my previous practice lost and now I am forever doomed to being a stumbling, impatient, unbalanced yogi??!!”

Then the teaching from Pema Chodron (above) popped into my head: “lasting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as the source of wisdom and compassion.” All of a sudden I realized that yes, my physical postures were lacking in that moment, but that the awareness that this was okay was my real yoga that day. As one of my teachers says, sometimes just showing up is the real yoga.

As soon as I decided that the practice was not about doing what I had done before or what I might do again in the future, that it was about just being present, patient and compassionate toward whatever was in this moment, everything eased.

I wish I could say the rest of class flowed with sacred grace, I regained my balance and had a smoother practice. I can’t say that becuase that isn’t what happened. Well, I could say it, but you’d know I was fibbing, especially if you are that poor woman who was next to me that day. My physical manifestation of practice still stunk but something much deeper shifted and the time ceased to be about what I couldn’t do to being about what I could do:

Stay in the room.

Breathe.

Be present with whatever is, with a little grace and good humor.

Class the following day was a little more normal, but even that “bad” yoga turned out to be a union in its own way: with compassion, awareness and joy.

By Rabbi Chava Bahle

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