Mar 30, 2017


There's a lot of ground to cover between last post and this one; instead of reaching back into the past, I'm going to jump right into the present: my story, as it stands now, is one of a young woman living in a Michigan suburb home to a significant population of Japanese expats, working a great middle class job, and floating a few inches off the ground thanks to one very special reason: I'm sharing this story, this life, and all my love with the greatest man I know. I feel incredibly blessed everyday because we are together. Buck, you are truly the best.๐Ÿ’—

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Hidden inside the local hospital's cancer center is a yoga studio; circular glass walls surround an inner courtyard of air-cleansing plants, heated stone flooring that warms our bare feet, and suspended sculptures of colored glass that shine in the sunlight. At its center is a round pool with a floating lotus flower to remind us to be calm in both mind and body.

But I've discovered I'm not calm here. The usual objections don't apply — the cost is reasonable, the teacher knowledgable, the location just 4 miles from home, and the yoga-style easy to follow; yet a growing feeling of being unwelcome has taken root...

The evening class consists of half a dozen middle-aged women struggling with their weight. Their eyes skip over me as they enter class and they talk amongst themselves before we begin. At the last practice I tried to start an upbeat conversation with the woman beside me by talking about the coming of spring. She agreed in a few words, and left it there. I tried again several minutes later, commenting on how nice the courtyard looked with the raised pool. This time, she didn't reply at all. I felt rejection in her silence.

The teacher, a distant woman in her 60s, usually exchanges pleasantries with me, however during practice she consistently makes off-hand comments such as:

Move into this twist. It's difficult... well, for some of us.
This becomes harder when you get old, but you wouldn't know.
Who's in their 20s in this class again? Raise your hand? Oh yes, that's right.

During yoga, I noticed the woman next to me had a limited range of movement during certain bends. Despite my neck/spinal pain and post-work exhaustion, I was doing my best to follow my breath into the move myself when the teacher once again interrupted the flow of class to comment, "You're a 'bendy' so it's no problem for you, but we're older." I felt frustrated as the class's unwanted attention focused in on me.

At the end of the session, my neighbor finally acknowledged me with a half-joking, half-disgusted: "I try not to look at you during class. You're too bendy."

It clicked for me then... my youth is unwelcome here. When the teacher brings the class's attention towards me instead of the practice, I'm being separated from the others while they are being given an open invitation to envy me. Perhaps without being conscious of it, they see me as a youthful "everything comes easy to you" straw woman to size up their limitations to and feel jealous of. This feelings seeps into the very air, and has poisoned my experience.

I considered giving the message to namaste outta my way and continue practicing there, but have since changed my mind. It's not me, but my practice, that makes them feel this way... everyone wants to feel accepted just as they are, especially when their own inner critic keeps putting them down. It's not the right place for me, so I'm moving my practice to a more welcoming (and younger, more expensive, farther away) yoga sala. I understand their feelings of insecurity — I feel sheepish about practicing somewhere with experienced yogis who can do so much more than I can. But I want to watch them, to learn from them, and accept my limitations while at the same time striving to do better.

If courage is being brave despite fear, maybe contentment is being confident despite envy/insecurity. We're human, so fear and insecurity come up naturally within us, but if you dig into your deeper resources you don't have to give in to it.

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