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Free Yourself Up

Updated: Aug 23

One of my favorite things about yoga is that it’s a “practice”. When I’m teaching, or taking classes at other studios, no one ever calls anything a practice… but it is. We’re playing and building through repetition. We’re learning. We’re growing mentally as much as we are physically.


Or so I hope…


This morning I took a class with an instructor whom I’ve never taken, and I’d like to say I wasted my time, but in hindsight she was the catalyst for self-discovery.


Hot power yoga. It’s supposed to be hard, right? And sweaty. We forgot our towels so I spent the $4 to rent them. Because it’s hot, and I’m going to sweat, because it’s going to be hard. (Expectations, am I right?)


But that’s not what happened. We kept stretching. We never did a warrior two. Where the f*ck is my warrior two?! Where are my thoracic twists?! I need them! And why isn’t this hard? And why did we just waste $4 on a towel that I’m obviously not going to sweat into? And…breathe.


Here’s the thing though- whether a workout or practice is guided or not, it is YOUR responsibility to fill that time with meaning and the level of difficulty (or not) you seek. This comes up a lot in group fitness- clients talk a lot of sh*t (sorry guys, but you do). I’ll hear gossip about whose classes are too easy and the moves that are chosen or not chosen, but rarely do I hear anyone say, “I could have tried harder”. “I could have done better, lifted heavier, been more mindful, paid more attention to my form, learned how to move with my breath, finally say hello to the people around me…”


About halfway through, I became fed up with my own sh*tty little attitude and I decided that if I couldn’t attain the level of difficulty I EXPECTED THE TEACHER TO GIVE ME, I was going to instead focus more deeply on my practice. I was going to notice what happened to my body and breath with each asana. “Are all ten toes down on the mat? Am I shooting energy through my fingers? Have I dropped my shoulders? Pulled my belly in? Did I go into child’s pose because I’m running to something or away from something?”


Have you ever heard that saying, “the things we don’t like in others are actually a mirror we hold up to ourselves”? It reminds me that in order to release any unnecessary dislike or even hatred, I have to look within. It’s not about the other person, but rather it’s about me fixing what’s been broken inside of me. (There goes that personal responsibility again!)


Since this morning was less about burning calories and more about inner wisdom, naturally I need to share a second epiphany… Let me just say, she brought a lot of joyfulness and passion into the room, and I absolutely LIVE for an instructor who is unapologetically herself (So obviously I love my own class, hehe). However, while she gave little bits of information about her life and made little jokes, she was so damn apologetic! Almost everything she shared was immediately followed by “I’m just kidding” or “I didn’t mean that”. Yes, you did. That’s why you said it. That’s why you wanted to share your quirks and your corny-ness. You wanted us to know who you are and feel safe with you. But when you negate everything you feel or think, how can I, as a student in your class for the very first time, really know how to be vulnerable with someone who is afraid to be vulnerable themselves?


I get it. This is a sensitive time. People are offended by almost everything. Cancel culture is a thing. We love to complain, fight, pop off on the internet, get things for free, cry, create petitions, drop friends, change jobs… the list goes on and on. There are definitely things I say in class sometimes and think, “Aw sh*t, someone’s definitely sending an email about that one”.


I also get that as instructors we have to be likable. If no one likes you, they won’t take your class and then guess what? You have no career. That said, it is impossible to please everyone. It is impossible to not offend someone with either something you say, post, or wear; the music you play or don’t play or what you’ve chosen to teach that day. Or god forbid you give a shout out to one person and not another.


I think we have an obligation to be kind, and mindful, and respectful- but not people-please.


This woman’s behavior held up a mirror to me for every time I’ve changed how I behave so that more people will like me or follow me.


She held up a mirror and showed me every time I wanted to be smaller, quieter, and less black.


She held up a mirror and in one hour gave me a class that I didn’t want, but needed.


I want you to hear me when I tell you you’re not perfect and you never will be. But I also want you to hear me when I tell you that you don’t need perfection to take ownership over your brief time here on earth. It doesn’t always have to be “right” in order for you to get what you need. Your expectations don’t always have to be met in order for you to have joy. In fact, I would argue that it’s when things go the most sideways that we have our biggest opportunities to show up and be great.


You. Have. Power.


The time is always right to be better. Keep practicing

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©2019 BY ASHLEY MITCHELL