I remember vividly the feeling of first entering the yoga room. People were everywhere with their mats rolled out, socks balled up, shoes askew and already starting to move, stretch or maybe meditate. There was this sense that everyone knew what to do---except for me. I was the newbie.
I remember looking desperately for a space somewhere in the back---a corner. No luck! The only spot left was torture as an introvert---the middle of the room. I contemplated leaving---but that seemed like it would make more of a scene. I just wanted to be invisible, to blend in---I wanted to belong. A couple uncomfortable, self conscious minutes later and I looked around and noticed something incredible. NO ONE was watching me. No one cared that I moved from pose to pose like a newborn giraffe. In fact, I noticed that I was the only person looking around. Incredible. Everyone was just doing their thing---having their own unique experience.
This individual phenomenon never ceases to make an impression---even years later and countless studio hours as a student and teacher. I watch this scene play out again and again---and now also see OTHER new-to-yoga individuals express the same surprise at this experience that I did. Now as the guide, I seek actively to pass on this very same lesson to MY students. Take a class and you might hear me say, “Picture your four corners of your mat like your very own world. Your OWN practice studio to work out whatever in your life and emotions needs worked out. Be willing to try something and fall, to look silly or to rest when everyone else is moving (or MOVE when everyone else is resting---that’s sometimes harder!).” More than anything----I wish to pass on the more important LIFE application---be willing to take up space and have your own experience. If people don’t see you, that’s fine. If people do watch you, that’s fine. But have your own experience.
Self-consciousness is born of our ego---the part of us that tries oh so hard to keep us from becoming a total social outcast. It’s the elephant in the room that makes us check and recheck our carefully chosen outfit, mirror the latest eyebrow style popular, or adjust our own enthusiasm to match that of the people we are with so we don’t “stick out”. I’m not here to actually demonize or condemn that part of us---I just want to point out the freedom we abandon by ONLY living in our social ego. We have a whole other part of our persona----our individual self. This was the part of me that is accessed and strengthened every time I’m willing to be uncomfortable, stick out and yet STILL have my own experience---a VERY important internal muscle when it comes to living by my values, receiving hard feedback or being ok with being seen as different or weird---kind of a MUST when we are talking about walking your unique path and creating a version of life that looks differently than the majority of culture.
Another subtle piece to building our connection to our individual self and experience is being willing to be uncomfortable AND be ok with it. To this day, I still look for the corner back place in a yoga class. I still don’t really like sticking out like a sore thumb in a crowd…but you know what? Thanks to my time on the mat practicing, I’m really ok with it. It happens. I can smile at my discomfort, kindly laugh at my innate self-consciousness---but I can also choose to stay and have my own unique experience on my mat and off of it.
Here’s to each of your individual journeys. <3