Lessons Learned When a Yoga Class is Way Too Hard

Last week I attended a Gentle class at The Yoga Room that was way too hard for me. Seriously. And it actually had nothing to do with the class or the teacher. She taught a beautiful and appropriate practice. It was me. I hadn’t attended a class in a couple of weeks, I was under stress, I hadn’t even made time for my person practice. I knew my body was tight, but I didn’t realize how tight until the class began.

It was excruciating, like nails on a chalkboard. My body resisted every pose. I thought back to my recent reflections on whether it’s ok to not listen to the teacher in a group class and how I had resolved that I should respect both the teacher and myself.

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But this particular class was so challenging for me that it went beyond my previous reasoning. Even the modifications that the teacher suggested (and that I myself teach) were not making the class accessible to me. Every pose was uncomfortable.

So what did I do? I went even more slowly. I took breaks. I breathed. I held poses that felt good and skipped the ones that didn’t.

And then after the class was done I realized how grateful I was for this class that was way too hard. It provided the time and space for some important lessons. On the surface: what to do when the yoga class you attend is way too hard. But on a deeper level: what do do when life circumstances are way too hard.

And really, the response is the same. Go slowly. Take breaks. Breathe. Be easy with yourself. Let go of what you think you’re “supposed” to do and be ok with doing what is right for you.

Treat yourself with love this week, sweet yogi.


XO, Zelinda

Psst! Remember why we all love yoga?

The holiday season can be so stressful. One morning this week I had such a difficult time getting my kids dressed, fed, and out the door, that I seriously worried I was going to have a heart attack. My older son needed little gifts, under 10 cents apiece (?!), individually wrapped, for his 18 classmates. I assembled candy cane reindeer late the night before (I know, he should have helped - that's a whole other story) and all that was left to do in the morning was for him to write his name on the cards.

Sounds simple enough, but... He took his time getting out of bed, took his time getting dressed, and took his time signing the cards while I hurried him along and tried to keep him focused, meanwhile the clock kept ticking toward 7:05 - carpool time.

At 7:00 he was finally done with the cards, but I hadn't had time to make any breakfast or any lunches. It was perhaps our most stressful morning ever.

So after I got him over to our neighbor's for carpool (on time!) and after I drove my younger son to his school, I debated about whether I should go home and crawl back into bed or go to the studio and lay on my mat.

I figured that if I took a nap while I was so stressed that I'd probably wake up still stressed, so I opted to stop by the studio for some gentle, grounding practice. And oh, it was exactly what I needed.

Often in my classes I say that I wish we'd taken some "Before" photos so that people could compare how their bodies and their poses look before and after yoga practice. It's really remarkable. I *so* need to start doing that.

That day was the first time that I wish I'd taken a "Before" picture of myself. When I walked into the practice space, I still felt seriously stressed. My body felt fine (or so I thought). I lay on my mat and just breathed for a while. I felt some tightness in the back of my pelvis. As I went through some slow movements, I realized that I was pretty tight all around my thighs and in my calves, hips, upper back, chest, arms, and hands. I was tight pretty much all over.

z selfieSo I just allowed my body to be my guide and I slowly worked through bigger and deeper asana to release the tightness. I didn't do any fancy handstands or arm balances; I just mostly laid on my back or stood on hands and knees and breathed and moved around a bit.

And by the end of an hour I felt like a brand new person. The crushing stress was a distant memory. My body, which I thought had felt fine before, now I felt amazing. I had a newfound sense of freedom in my body which was evident whenever I walked or moved.

I felt so amazing that I remembered to take an "After" photo. Here I am, at the onset of an allergy attack, with not a speck of make up on. The glow on my face is due entirely to my simple little yoga practice.

I tell you this story because I think we all need reminding - we all forget sometimes - how amazing we feel when we practice yoga. Life gets busy and we think we don't have time to roll out our mats. But during those crazy, busy times is when we need yoga most. For our health. For our sanity. So we can be our best selves in the various roles we play.

Wishing you peace, joy, and love this holiday season.

Zelinda 2013XO, Zelinda