Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What doesn't kill us makes us hotter

Yoga is the best part of my week; I've been going to classes regularly since August. I'm not good at it (yet), but I like how it makes me feel. You shouldn't confuse that with "I like doing yoga", because as soon as class starts to get challenging, the Inner Dissenter starts whining about if class will EVER be over.

In case you're not familiar, the Inner Dissenter is the voice that tells you that you're not good enough, you're not a fastidious enough flosser, or that you look fat in those jeans. Mostly, the Inner Dissenter is a jerk.

[Side note: I think my personal hell is one where you're in a super-hard yoga class that never, ever ends. Or, sitting in a perpetually spinning office chair.]

I tried out a variety of classes, and throughout the week, my yoga workout varies. There is one class that is an ongoing challenge for me, taught by Kent Bond, who is the founder of Willow Glen Yoga. It's only the second yoga studio I've ever been to, but I like it LOADS better than That Other Place. They encourage the use of props, and for those of us who might be out of shape (or "alternatively shaped", as I like to think of it) props make easing into the positions much, much easier. It's taken a lot of the misery, pain, and self-loathing out of doing yoga, as far as I'm concerned.

Some of the classes are lovely and slow, but still on the challenging side. Not Kent's class. Kent's class delivers a Chuck Norris sized punch in the face, the core, and the hamstrings. Kent's class is simultaneously the most challenging and the most satisfying class of my week. The first few weeks were really frustrating for me; I felt betrayed by my lack of body awareness, my lack of balance, and my lack of sheer strength. I'm used to being a quick study, but my brain and body have had a really tough time with yoga.

Going to yoga has been incredibly humbling. I'm not used to struggling to learn something, and the first few classes I took with Kent were a challenge to say the least. The first class was an exercise in humility: every pose that we did in class, Kent would come by and correct me. When we were in a pose and he would pass me, it felt like a victory; I'd have a ticker-tape parade in my head. Halfway through class, every time Kent walked towards me, I thought, "Please don't be here to correct me." Then, I realized, No Jasmin, you're wrong.

I was there to learn, and unless I wanted to do it incorrectly (and risk injuring myself), I needed to really absorb the correction. Being a quick study has made me a lazy learner; if I don't get it right away, my inclination is to quit. Frankly speaking, that is crap.

The Inner Dissenter was louder than ever, saying all sorts of unflattering things about my learning ability, and was encouraging me to roll up my yoga mat, go home, and have a bowl of ice cream instead of doing the Hard Yoga.

I thought loudly to the Inner Dissenter, Shut up and let me learn.

I pushed through to the end of class, and ached all the way home. When I got there, Andrew asked me how it had gone, to which I responded, "Miserable. I'm going to keep going until it's not so hard."

And I have. In the last couple of weeks, I've noticed that I'm able to hold the poses more easily, my flexibility has increased, my balance is improved, and my shape has changed, noticeably. 

Maybe if I approach intarsia with the same gusto, it won't be so horrible.


  1. I think that this is one of yoga's best lessons: the beginner's mind. In order to live a full, adventurous life we have to be willing to be beginners over and over again. We have to be willing to be in a situation where we feel uncertain, awkward, weak. Otherwise, stagnation is what occurs. Growth in humans requires discomfort.

    The other big lesson of yoga: you are where you are. You might want to be Pretzel Queen with abs of steel and calfs of rubber. But trying to force your body only leads to pain and makes you regress. Accepting what you can do right now and stretching that by just a wee bit, that's yoga.

    I'm happy to hear that you're finding physical challenges for yourself. As a knitter, I love hearing about knitting challenges. But as a human who has lost 50 pounds, learned to run, and now is tackling things like yoga and triathlon, well, as a human I'm happy to hear that you're using your whole body and not just the bit between your forearms and fingertips.

  2. Glad to hear you're learning to argue against the inner dissenter. I've got one that tells me (apart from the usual stuff you mentioned) that I'm an academic fraud, who doesn't understand how proper research is done. I'm working on getting it to shut up.

    I like your observation of how a quick study made you a lazy learner. It's probably true for a lot of people who say "Oh I could never do that". Must remember that.

  3. You are practicing your "executive function" according to neuro-scientists -- good for you!

    Check out this great podcast:

  4. I just wanted to say thanks for this post. I've heard of the inner dissenter before- namely in Chris Batey's book No Plot? No Problem!, but I had forgotten about him for a while.

    In the past year or so, I've become really (REALLY) out of shape. I used the fact that I hated seeing all of the teeny exercizeaholic girls and Ahhhnold like boys at the campus gym as an excuse not to go. You've inspired me! I've got a date to go with my boyfriend to the gym. The excuse that if you don't try, you can't fail is utter crap.

    Thanks :)

  5. You know you've met the Exercise for You when you come home and say, "boy, that really sucked. I can't wait to do it again!"

    Kinda like I did last night.

  6. Admiration coming your way....

    And, how wild to read "Kent Bond" at Willow Glen Yoga. Googled it, visited their website, and it's crazy true, it is THAT Kend Bond I was friends with a billion years ago. Somehow doesn't surprise me. Bet he still has a cracking sense of humor, right?


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