I’ve recently gotten into yoga.
I mean, I suppose I was always kind of into yoga, but in the past year, I’ve started to truly appreciate the value of a solid yoga class. It’s helped me become grateful for a body that I felt betrayed by for so many years—I can marvel at the way that my chest creeps further and further toward my thighs in a forward fold. A few months ago, I mastered a headstand, and I’m working toward a forearm stand. Last week, I graduated from crow pose to eka pada koundinyasa II. It was admittedly for like five seconds, but hey, a win is a win. I love the way a sweaty, solid practice can take me out of my mind and into my body in a peaceful way, allowing me to become a singular being instead of a fragmented one.
But I hate standing balances.
I’m so bad at them. I like to blame the fact that the muscles in my legs are slightly skewed outward so my legs almost look bowed. And my flat feet/lack of arches. And my wide-set hips that make standing with my toes pointed directly forward uncomfortable, like I’m standing pigeon-toed.
None of these are probably valid excuses. Or maybe some of them are a little bit, but really, I’m just bad at it. I sway and rock and then I panic and fall out of a simple tree pose. Forget something more complicated like a dancers pose or a warrior III (sorry to all the non-yogis out there. I recommend Googling these poses because some of these are insanely impressive and beautiful)—it’s a lost cause as I try to stabilize my ankles and not grab with my toes but also kind of grab with my toes and lean forward onto the ball of my foot but not too fall forward and…?
Boom. I hit the ground.
I don’t know if I have told you guys yet, but I’m really unhappy when I’m not good at something. So when I fall out of these standing poses, I first get embarrassed. Then I try to get back into it, but I’m already upset, so I just fall out again. And again. And again. I watch all of these graceful humans around me hold a perfect eagle, and I look like a tree in a hurricane. It’s not pretty, and I go from embarrassed to downright angry. You know what doesn’t help a yoga practice? Blind and utter frustration.
But today. TODAY. I went to a power yoga class and I took my time. I began the practice on my back, vowing that I would be kinder to myself. When we got to the first leg balance section, I didn’t fall once. Victory! The second balance section was trickier, and longer, and as we worked through the right side of our bodies, I held a warrior III…until I didn’t. I fell out of eagle on that side too. My leg burned as I tried to keep myself stable. I could feel the heat of frustration running from that burning muscle all the way to my brain, which, in response, started to quicken my heartbeat and echo self-deprecating thoughts around my skull.
But I had made a promise to myself that I was determined to keep. So I took a breath and strengthened my resolve. And I tried on the other side.
And guys, it worked. Did I stay completely stable the entire time? Hell no! But I was able to stay in the poses on my left side even just a beat longer than I could on my right side by simply moving slowly and with a single intention—to allow myself to fail.
Funny how once you allow yourself to fail, it becomes so much easier to succeed.
I know I write a decent amount about struggling, but I also want to make sure I spend some time celebrating our successes. Even the small ones. Is holding a standing leg balance in a yoga class minor compared to, say, some of Greta Thunberg’s accomplishments? Obviously. But it’s still something I’ve been working on for quite some time, and that deserves to be acknowledged.
So, if you have accomplished anything this year, celebrate it! Finished a book even though you aren’t really a reader? Amazing! Cooked a meal you’ve never tried before and it turned out delicious (or it turned out sucky but you still cooked it)? Dope! Bought a house? Got a new job? Picked up that hobby that you have been meaning to try? Made it through another holiday gathering without fighting with that relative you usually fight with? You. Are. A. Boss.
As the year comes to a close, let’s try to focus on our successes rather than our failures. Whatever you’ve accomplished this year, I raise my glass to you. Because you’re nothing short of amazing and you absolutely deserve it.
Kristy Cloetingh is a Philadelphia native who is currently trying to figure out her place in the world. Her passions include reading, singing, dancing, nature, yoga, chicken fingers, and puppies. An anorexia survivor and mental health warrior, Kristy has made it her life’s mission to remind every single person that their bodies and minds are worthy of unconditional love and respect, regardless of size, shape, or whatever “normal” is.