Let’s be real. Everyone’s first few yoga classes are a bit uncomfortable. Personally, I felt downright awkward the first couple (dozen) classes I took. Initially, down dog felt plain weird, planking was like WTF!?, and chaturanga was more like flopping so very un-gracefully to my belly.
On top of that, the names for poses were super confusing, and I always seemed to be twisting and turning the wrong way. With time, though, I began to feel more comfortable. Down dog became natural and the urge to curse while planking diminished…slightly. Sometimes I even do extra chaturangas now, just for fun. (Emphasis on the sometimes.)
As you become familiar with the flow and build your strength, things become if not easier, more natural. With that being said, for me those awkward beginner moments never completely faded away.
There are still many, many occasions on the mat when I feel that very same beginner uncertainty. I wobble and shake. Sometimes I fall. One time I even fell onto the guy’s mat next to me—sorry, bro. There are plenty of days I just don’t feel in sync with my breath, and many instances when poses that typically come easy are a struggle.
I’ve steadily improved, but I’m still challenged every time I’m on the mat. It sounds bizarre, but I think uncertainty is just part of the magic of yoga. Your body, ever so subtly, is constantly changing, and ultimately, yoga helps you to become more in tune with those changes.
I started to truly love yoga when I realized that being imperfect is part of the process. As with life, you have winning days and you have, well, not-so-winning days. Your experience on the mat is a reflection of this, and with that knowledge it’s easier to own your awkward. Yeah, I might teeter, or fall, or completely fail at a pose, but where I would’ve felt embarrassed as a beginner, now it’s easier for me to accept it and move on. No use crying over failed yoga poses, amiright?
The art of accepting yourself (both the good and the less good) is a lesson yoga has helped to teach me, and this has allowed me to excel in a lot of other areas of life, both fitness related and not. Yoga has helped to teach me self-love, whether I'm completely killing it, or (more likely) completely lost. Learning how to deal with both of the highs and the lows of life is so important because, as we all know, there will certainly be plenty of both.
Self-acceptance is one of the many lessons yoga can teach us, something we learn on the mat that translates to real life. Everyone, I think, experiences these beginner moments on the mat, time and time again. And that's good, because that's life--a series of challenges we all must push through in order to grow and learn.
Ultimately, we can’t be perfect in life, and we can’t be perfect on the mat. Own your successes and your failures and keep on doing your damn dharma.