Projecting Anger On My Yoga Mat
Going into my second weekend of yoga teacher training, I had just completed my first week on the new job. By Friday, it had already felt like the longest week of my life after absorbing so much new information and trying to wrap my head around my new role and responsibilities.
I thought I moved through the week fairly well considering all the things I had on my plate. I tried to give myself encouragement and reminded myself that I’m not expected to be a tax expert in my first week.
“I will figure this out,” I told myself.
I went to yoga training Friday night and moved through an amazing flow where I felt grounded and strong, which gave me confidence in my practice and a sense of peace after a hectic week. But come Saturday as our class started our morning practice, I immediately had resistance when the teacher started with a pranayama practice I don’t like (because I don’t know how to do it.) I don’t know how to describe it, but my immediate thoughts about it are that it’s only accessible to skinny people and that pissed me off.
It didn’t help that the room – with 11 people moving in it – is now uncomfortably warm and I begin to get overheated. At this point we’re past the “breathing” technique that doesn’t feel like breathing at all, but the flow is not coming as easily as it did Friday night. Sweat and anger are burning through my entire body, and I can’t concentrate on anything else. My breathing is not in sync with my movements and every prompted pose felt like a personal attack on my abilities.
I’m laughing as I sit here writing about the experience days later, but in that moment, it was overwhelming to the point tears just started to flow down my face. I deepened my breath and tried my best to come back to the present moment, but man I was projecting all my bullshit thinking onto our instructor. I mean, how dare she make us do something I don’t like and prompt poses that don’t work in my body.
She’s probably reading this right now thinking, “Oh yeah bitch, I saw you losing your shit on your mat!” because teachers always know these things. I was sending out some negative vibes for sure.
By the end of the practice, I had gotten it together and really enjoyed the rest of the day of learning and practice, but damn, it was a rough first hour. Even afterward when she asked everyone how they left after the practice, I totally lied and said I felt relaxed when nothing could have been farther from the truth.
Any of those would have been better words to describe how I felt. Why would I lie?
Later that night when I had time to reflect, it was clear I wasn’t mad at our instructor – I was just beating myself up for not being able to do everything “perfectly.” I was mad that it didn’t come easy for me. I guess after a week in a new job where I felt vulnerable working through a sharp learning curve that I just needed to feel like I was good at something. In those moments on the mat, my ego came roaring out of me screaming “This isn’t fair!” like a toddler who just got their toy taken away from them.
I’ve been in tough yoga classes before where I struggled to keep up or get my body comfortably into a pose, but I’ve never experienced such internal turmoil. The truth is that it’s completely normal to have such strong emotions hit you on the mat during a practice whether it’s a challenging flow or an easy relaxing flow. We make it worse on ourselves when we try to resist those emotions and shame ourselves for feeling any certain way.
It's moments like these when we see where our work is off the mat. My work right now is to know that it’s OK not to be perfect. It’s OK to be in a learning phase. It’s OK to release emotions, however unpleasant they can feel. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed and vulnerable.
It’s not OK to project your feelings onto others, especially not your wonderfully kind and understanding yoga instructor who is simply trying to expand your knowledge and practice – after all that is what we signed up for! And it’s not OK to lie to yourself or others about your feelings.
Next time, I will tell the truth when we share after a practice because if I was struggling, chances are someone else was struggling. My honesty could have given someone else permission to be honest as well. I hate that I missed that opportunity to speak my truth, but I’m glad that my yoga practice has given me the ability to be more self-aware. A few years ago, my thoughts wouldn’t have gone much farther than “I suck, my teacher sucks, this is too hard, I quit.”
That is amazing growth. I am so grateful.