Tough Girl Says YES

I used to think yoga had no point. It was just stretching (and who needs to stretch, really). It was people saying philosophical phrases - "breathe into the sensation" - trying to forget reality. Life is hard! Why are they trying to cover it up with nicety and poetic statements, I thought to myself. 

I was, I suppose, a slightly different person at that point. I ran religiously. Uphill in both directions. I injured my elbow doing cardio kickboxing because I was punching too hard. I went through a weight lifting phase and also took a boxing class in college. I was totally tough.

In work/career/school, perfection was the expectation. There was no excuse for anything other than that. Mistakes? Not a viable option but, if they happened, you can be sure that I felt dutifully ashamed of myself, but also that I was able to hide those feelings. Total tough girl.

It took a mental breakdown and a therapist to get me to a yoga class. "Have you ever considered yoga?" she asked. It took me a while to take her seriously, but my crushing anxiety was a compelling motivator. 

I found my way to an outdoor yoga class. It was an older group of women (older than me, anyway) who walked in the park for 30 minutes and then did some yoga, using park benches as props for 30 minutes. I enjoyed this thoroughly. 

It took me two years of park yoga before I was brave enough to enter an actual yoga studio. TWO YEARS.

The rest, as they say, is history. I am now a stretchy, philosophy-stating yoga teacher who breathes into the sensation every time. I think back to those days when I was totally tough and I now know it was armor that was attempting to hide how weak I felt. 

Many people think that yoga instructors have it all figured out. We must never feel crazy or anxious. Hmm... this is not quite true. Before yoga, I used every ounce of effort to cover up my weaknesses. Unfortunately, my weaknesses have not gone away. The difference is that I am so very aware of all my weaknesses. I have anxiety, sometimes crushing. I overthink. I eat too much chocolate. I am a complete mess. Also, for the record, I hate running. Don't think I'll ever do that again.

There is no more hiding. When something stressful happens at work, I am going to freak out. That's who I am. But then, I am going to become aware of those emotions and I will use the tools in my toolbox to calm down and move forward. Over time and with continual practice, the space between freaking out and returning to calm becomes smaller and smaller.

Easy? Hell no. But it's better than running.

Worth it? Tough girl says YES.

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  • Moore Quinn on

    That’s a very brave blog post. Tough is GOOD in its own place, as in “Tough as leather,” or “That plant must be tough. It survived a rough-and-tough winter.”
    We are so hard on ourselves in terms of the “perfection” quotient. How easy it is for us to understand others’ confessions of weakness, and to forgive them. We might even admire them for both the confessions and for what is confessed. But we ourselves? Confess weakness? Never! Somehow OUR “bible of confession of faults” is slammed shut, never to be opened . . . never! Until one day, we learn that compassion and loving kindness, like charity, begin at home. Perhaps our mothers and caregivers tried to teach us that. However, it takes a long time to trust our humanness, to forgive ourselves, to say, “Heh, I’m tough. I was tough and I’ll be tough again. Nothing wrong with that. But . . . I’m also tender, like a tough plant that produces an incredibly delicate and gentle flower.” And to rejoice in the fact that “hat toughly-surviving flower is none other than . . . ME!”

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