Neglected Toes + Tight Hamstrings

{contributed by: Lorie Yarro}
Tonight, I was able to get to the yoga studio where I teach early enough before class that I could fit my own personal practice in. I always feel that when I have time to sit and breathe for a bit before class I am in a much better state of mind than when I am racing to get there. It’s hard to teach yoga when you are stressed out and going a mile a minute.
yoga toes
Some days are certainly easier than others to get myself to my mat. Sometimes, I have to be pulled to it, kicking and screaming, even though I know how much I need it. Today was not a struggle at all. I was ready to step away from everything outside and breathe. As I stood at the top of the mat, ready to begin my Sun Salutations, I looked down at my toes. My mind, that I was supposed to be stilling, immediately went into judgement mode balking at my neglected toenails. I took a deep inhale and kept going.  As I folded forward, it continued, Damn you, hamstrings! Will you EVER loosen up a bit?! My inner critic seemed to be at its best today and was certainly doing a good job of trying to get the best of me. I continued but to no avail. My mat became a battle ground with me on one side and my mind on the other. I certainly didn’t have the upper hand.
I went to a class recently taught by a beautiful teacher and friend, Sarah, who urged us all to try something new. She suggested we try to move from headstand into Parsva Bakasana (side crow). I had a good laugh at first, but then gave it a go. I could certainly do each pose separately, but coming from a totally new direction was the big catch. The sound effects in the following minutes during that class consisted of: thud, flop, thump, oops, flop, thud, etc. I was going nowhere.
Tonight, I decided to come back and give it another try. Once again, thud, plop, ouch, whoah, thump… you get the point. It got to the point where I stopped and laughed at myself. (I believe I may have thrown a fist to the air claiming, ‘I’ll get you for this, Sarah!’) As I stepped back to regroup, I had a bit of what you may call a coming to Jesus. I had it all wrong today. I was totally out of touch with what my real practice is, why I practice, and what yoga really is to me. Every class I teach, I remind everyone that yoga is so much more than achieving a pose. I try to teach them that the journey is so much more of a teacher than the actual pose. I let them know that exactly as they stepped on their mat today, is exactly where they should be and they are perfect just as they are. I talk about letting go of the ego and keeping the inner critic at bay. Yet here I was, judging, criticizing, pushing for the pose. Today I became the preacher who did not practice.
My view from my mat tonight.

I took a deep breath.
Then I remembered a quote I have heard over and over and over from another special yoga teacher. “Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.”
I stepped back to my mat and I inhaled, each time I judge myself; and I exhaledI break my own heartI inhaledeach time I judge myself; and I exhaled, I break my own heart. I inhaledeach time I judge myself; and I exhaled, I break my own heart. And you know what? My toenails didn’t seem to be such a serious concern. My hamstrings didn’t feel so tight. And for the first time, I made it easily into a pose that had been such a challenge for me for a year now. That’s when I realized why all of the falls and thuds were so important tonight. It IS about the journey. It’s about getting back up and trying again. It’s about accepting exactly where you are in this present moment. It’s about inhaling and exhaling, inhaling and exhaling, through the pain, through the challenges.  And what I learn on my mat, doesn’t stay on my mat. I get to take it with me everywhere I go.

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