Recently, my boyfriend agreed to do some yoga classes with me. He’s been the perfect example of a humble student. It all started when he complained of back pain and I gently suggested trying a class to see about any improvement in his flexibility. Every once in a while I would bring it up when finally one evening he agreed, to my utter surprise and delight, to attend a class with me. I quickly presented him with an imaginary contract asking him to sign on the dotted line so I could hold him to his word. His reasons for not wanting to go were pretty typical I think. He thought he’d be the only guy there and would feel like he was intruding. Luckily, when we showed up it was Kevin sitting there in classic yogi fashion ready to take on the challenge of a new student.
I was nervous to bring him at first. I really wanted him to enjoy the class and I didn’t want him to feel as though I was dragging him into it. There were some challenges for the first class as well. Questions arose such as, where will we post our mats? What will he wear? Not so keen on wearing shorts, (yes men have body hang ups too) we decided on an old pair of sweats that made him feel comfortable. It was important to be forgiving of his hang ups because embarking on uncharted territory is a big deal for everyone.
There were some interesting ways he charted these waters. I watched as he struggled through poses and was proud to hear him breathing through each pose diligently. After the first class he was proud that when we all did forward bend, the teacher would then ask us to lift to half forward bend to which in his head he replied “I’m already there suckers!” Hilarious moments always happen when we get together and this experience was no exception.
Approaching the studio, he stopped a few feet from the door with “just a sec” pausing for a brief moment for which one may take as hesitation, only to realize the practicality of the pause was to pass wind before entering the studio. With a little chuckle I thought this was a great way to prepare for an hour long hot yoga session without feeling as much nerves.
Anyone who’s watched the infamous YouTube hit Glove and Boots will recognize the gorilla that grunts to and about everything. At the end of the second class Stefanie Winters, our instructor brought closure to the session with the usual “Namaste” in thanks. The class responded with our Namaste as we bowed our heads only, with my keen ears I picked up an almost inaudible grunt “Mm” coming from Curtis. Hilarious as it was, it reminded me of the unfamiliarity of some of the customs. His grunt was his own way of joining in the way he felt comfortable.
After the class he was asked how he enjoyed it. Honesty being one of his greatest attributes he replied with “It was awful”. But not one to be easily discouraged he followed quickly with “but I’ll keep coming because stretching is important and I need to do it”. It’s not often we find people in this fast paced society that are willing to push through the difficulty especially as we grow older and become used to being good at things. That moment made me so proud and I think we could all learn from this truthfulness towards the discipline of yoga. Sometimes it can get downright gritty and can feel impossible, but if our motivation lies in being where we are in the moment rather than a grandiose far fetched goal, we are much more likely to enjoy it, and to keep it up.
Perfectionism has been a theme riding with me for my entire life. Don’t get it twisted that I believe I’m perfect, the truth is I always thought that was the goal. And so whenever I approached something I would expect the impossible from myself. Especially in ballet training where the aim is to push your physicality beyond its’ limits to an ethereal form ( possible through only the right combination of genetics, training and luck). I always thought if I were on the right path it would be easy. And so to witness his humility in the way he approaches the yoga form, it reminds me that it isn’t the end goal that motivates practice. The aim is not to become more flexible, or strong or enlightened. The aim is to simply trust the process and to trust yourself knowing that benefits will begin to show up gradually along the way.
That being said, having a goal is important and meaningful but motivation can come from a deep understanding of yourself and what challenges you, while learning how to navigate these challenges with grace and humility.