Pain, Fear, Success!

Today’s tech class was AMAZINGLY cool – but not for the reasons you expect.  So let me explain.

The class session was titled “Floating and Flying Techniques” – which sounds super-cool, right?  I certainly thought so!  I really had no idea what the content of the class would be, but I was looking forward to something very fun!

Upon arriving to the class, the instructor asked us, “Okay, floating and flying, what does that mean we’re going to focus on today?”  I honestly had no idea, so I looked expectantly at her, waiting for the answer to what I assumed was a rhetorical question.  Instead, over half of the class responded, “Jumping!” – like they all totally knew what ‘floating and flying’ really implied.  Floating and flying meant jumping, of course.  Um, duh!

Oh shit.

In yoga classes, whenever the teacher cues us to “either walk or jump your feet to the top of the mat”, I always choose the first option.  Always.  ALWAYS.  I have never been able to get my body to move anything close to a sufficient jump; on the few rare times when I have tried a jump, it sounded like a huge THUD, and it hurt my feet/legs/arms, and it revealed just how weak and uncoordinated and “not perfect” I was at yoga (which is probably the real reason why I don’t jump – but we’ll leave my personal psychology for another day).  Suffice to say, when I learned that I had just entered a 90-minute class on the topic of jumping, my excitement for “floating and flying” nearly immediately turned to disappointment, hesitation, and irritation for jumping.


But, I was in the class, on my mat, materials unpacked – so it’s not like I could easily walk out of the session (without feeling completely embarrassed).  So, I took a breath, straightened my posture, and got my mind ready to learn.

To prepare for jumping, the teacher had us “crunch our toes”.  I had never heard this term before, so I was unclear what to do (as were many other people in the class).  We were all informed to squat down; curl our toes under so that the toe knuckles were on the floor (the hard, wood floor); put our heels down (so that the toes were curled under our feet); and then sit back on our rears, thereby putting ungodly pressure on our toes – in effect, crunching (crushing!) our toes.

Oh. My. Dear. God.  The pain, the pain, the pain!!  It hurts!!!

(If you don’t believe me, please try this activity yourself. And you know what?  Try it even if you do believe me; get a sense for what this really feels like.)

Hurts like a sonofabitch, doesn’t it?

After literally 4-5 seconds in this position, my mind immediately started judging the situation: “Yoga shouldn’t hurt; this toe crunching business is wrong! I shouldn’t be doing this to my body; intentional pain is not acceptable in my yoga practice!  I’m supposed to be respecting and loving my body, treating it kindly; not hurting it!  This is bullshit!  I shouldn’t be doing this!”  And in judging the situation, I quickly started to then judge the class, and the teacher.

But then, just 1-2 seconds after all of that, I caught myself.  “Oh, wait, I’m judging.  This is judging!  This is what judging feels like!”  In literally two seconds of judging, I had awareness and insight into what was going on in my mind, and I was able to then let go of the judging, and truly accept the situation as it was.  My meditation practice totally kicked in today; and it was awesome to witness and experience that!

Now, this isn’t to say I suddenly liked the situation – I really didn’t, not at all. Not even a little bit.  But. I did accept the situation; and that was amazingly remarkable.  WOW!

Okay, so we do 3 sets of toe crunching (the first two sets were 30 seconds each, and the final set was a full 60 seconds – ow, ow, ow, ow, OW!); and then we did a few sun salutations to warm up.  Okay, I can breathe a little bit easier.  I know how to do sun salutations.  I start to feel a tiny bit more comfortable.  My self-confidence begins to return.  Okay. I can do this.

Ha.  After literally two minutes, the teacher breaks the class into three groups, and instructs the first two groups to watch the third group do their sun salutations.  What?!  Fifteen other people are going to watch me do my yoga??  Yikes!  Self-consciousness returned in spades; self-confidence diminished rapidly; any sense of comfort left me completely.

But, I made it through the observation process (of course I did; was there really any other choice?), and from there the teacher began discussing and showing us the mechanics of how to move from “throwing” our bodies forward, to actually engaging in the floating activity needed for true yoga jumping.  And it was hard.  We were all using muscles that don’t normally get used in a “standard” yoga practice, and we were all getting into postures that are challenging at best (and then having to hold the postures for what seemed like an impossible length of time), and we were all experiencing the limitations of our strength and our flexibility (both of which are needed in spades for jumping), and we were all pretty much feeling unsuccessful in this whole “jumping” business.  (Or, at least I was; and I suspect I wasn’t alone.)

All that being said, I *do* want to stress that the teacher of this class was truly awesome.  While she wasn’t the most “gentle” person (she actually reminded me a LOT of the teacher from Fame – tough, but fair; crusty, but compassionate underneath), she is amazingly skilled at yoga, and not only showed us what BEAUTIFUL jumping really looks like, but was also able to verbalize the mechanics of how to get there clearly, concisely, and directly.  I didn’t have to wonder, “Is my back in the right position?” – she told me exactly where I was getting hung up.  I didn’t have to question, “Gosh, do my feet really belong here?” – she gave spot-on corrections and adjustments.  Eighty-nine minutes into the class, I tried my first jump – and it was miserable.  So I asked for a final observation, and received my last pieces of instruction from the teacher; and at minute 90 of the class, I attempted my final jump for the day, and…..  I did it.  I did it!  I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!

The jump wasn’t the beautiful maneuver the teacher demonstrated; but it was a solid, “good” first jump; and it showed me exactly what I *can* do: with the proper instruction, the right attitude, and the desire to let go and simply try, I really can float.  I really can fly.

Frickin’ awesome.  What an amazing tech class!!



About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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