I’m a traditionalist at heart. I like structure, predictability, organization, milestones, set patterns and the comfort of knowing exactly what my challenge is every single time I do something. I can study it. Prepare myself. Mark my progress. (If this says anything about me, I guess you could say that I was a very good student.)
As a classical pianist, the idea of improvisation and “riffing” scare the pants off me. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate variations and interpretations – because I do. But variations and interpretations of something I can read and know beforehand give me just enough freedom without venturing too far from the structure I love so much.
It’s easy to see why I’m attracted to ashtanga. It’s the same postures every single time. Some teachers have their variations on some of the postures, but whether you point the toe or flex the foot, it’s more or less the same thing.
Every now and then, I step out of my comfort zone and try a different class or a different teacher. And here’s what I’ve learned about myself:
- I am impatient. My husband would laugh at this statement and tell me he already knew this. In terms of my yoga practice, I start to get antsy at breath 4 because we don’t hold many postures in ashtanga longer than 5 breaths total. If we start a class with our eyes closed, I’m the one peeking to see if everyone else still has their eyes closed.
- I seek comfort in the familiar. My confidence level sky rockets in triangle pose and going through vinyasas. (Heck yeah! I can chaturanga!) But you can literally see my arm shaking in side plank (which is not part of the primary series) as I repeat to myself, “When can we get out of this posture?”
- I hate not looking like I know what I’m doing. If I learned how to do a posture one way (flexed foot, gaze up, straight back), and the teacher instructs us another way, I’m looking around at everyone else as I figure out how to re-position my body. I feel lost and frantic. I’ve been at this yoga thing for 5 years. What am I, a newb?
- I don’t know how to let loose. Classes that play upbeat, dance-worthy music and have us moving to the groove *should* be fun. But my stiff, traditional “upbringing” has me quietly bopping my head while holding the posture perfectly still instead of feeling the beat. If you put me in a club (or my living room) with this music blasting, I swear I can shake my booty like the best of them. Just not in yoga class, apparently.
In the end though, despite all of my anxiety and slight discomfort of stepping out of my usual traditional ways, I always have a blast in these “fun” yoga classes. It’s a different flow, a different atmosphere and a different attitude. I’m still working on letting loose and not letting the panic of the unknown get to me. But until I get comfortable with being uncomfortable, you’ll probably find me tucked away in the back of the room where I can safely watch everyone else instead of being seen.