This week in 'Amal Muses' I talk about Yoga, but not just about back-bending, of course!
No online publication for this one, but read below for the whole text. Enjoy!
Bending Backwards in Competition
By Amal Ghazali
When it comes to Yoga, most of the stories you would hear is about how someone was going on a downward spiral emotionally and physically, and one day they came across a beacon of light that was Yoga, and now they meditate everyday and have achieved upmost bliss and Nirvana where they can quiet the mind and hear imaginary waterfalls somewhere in the distance, while standing upside down.
This is not one of those stories.
My relationship with Yoga began like this; there was a free class in my University, I went for it because I couldn’t afford a gym membership and was bored, kind of liked it, and the rest was history.
Over the years I had an on/off relationship with Yoga. I am a mediocre student, which means what I lack in flexibility I make up with a lot of giggling during an otherwise quiet class, and I needed to be forced to push myself further. Recently I was intrigued to try out a slightly different type of Yoga class called Mysore Yoga. Historically, it is a type of Yoga practice originating from a place called Mysore, India. Symbolically, the name basically hints at what will happen to you the next day – sore all over.
The Lesson Begins
The class started at 7 a.m. which was as early as when I get up to go to work. The concept of the class was rather different than what I was used to. For two hours, I would be doing my poses alone, unlike the usual class where everyone follows what the instructor does. The point was that I would be doing Yoga according to my own pace, instead of being slowed down by other beginners or rushed up by more advanced students. My instructor’s name was Freda, a fine exotic-looking lady with lean muscles and ballerina limbs that made me feel like a soggy, over-boiled sausage just standing next to her.
The first fifteen minutes were great. They were poses I was used to, and I began to feel slightly cocky with the fact that I could do them all rather easily. I checked myself out in the studio’s mirror, looking poised and firm in my Downward Dog pose. I glanced to my side and saw another girl turning her body into a round-shaped human ball, which was then rolled around by Freda. Wait. What? Am I expected to do that too? That looked… impossible. My initial confidence immediately simmered down.
The next hour was a blur of muscle quivers and sweat dripping down my face. Freda seemed like a disguised, soft spoken angel who was determined to turn me into a human pretzel. Who knew I could put my legs there? Even my legs were surprised. Why was my right arm on my left side? Lord knows, but there I was.
The minute I saw another girl do a strange pelvic twist, I got nervous. I was absolutely confident I could not pull that off. I saw Frieda walk slowly towards my direction. Please, God, not me. I began to wish that she was going to call some other girl to do it. Please don’t look at me.
She looked right at me.
“Alright Amal,” she said, her voice so soothing that I began to wonder if she was also a part-time shrink. “Next, do the Shashawasanapaka pose.” Or at least I think that was what she said. The names of these poses are extremely bizarre.
The next day, I spent my Sunday on the couch with ice on my bum.
It’s A Lot Like Life
Sure, there are all those well-known obvious benefits of Yoga. It increases your muscle strength and tones them, which in turns protects them from easy injury. For some people, it even teaches them how to calm the nerves, and God knows we need that these days.
But that Mysore class I went to also taught me something else. By the end of the session I found out that most of the other students were instructors themselves, which explained their much superior capabilities compared to mine. Although being amongst them made me push myself that much harder, it also brought into question the matter of comparing oneself to others.
Like a lot of other things in life, we tend to sometimes look to the sides and become consumed with being at par with other people. Perhaps I was doing well by my own standards, but watching that other girl put her head under her legs gave me unnecessary pressure that perhaps what I was doing was not good enough. And so in Yoga, as well as in life, it is pointless to measure yourself against others, and you should always focus on improving yourself by your own personal standards.