Sunday Morning Yoga with Gus, at the Green Monkey, Naples

My right elbow gave out on me today during a physically challenging hot yoga class. I had my right knee to my right elbow and flying, and suddenly my elbow gave way; it buckled and I fell, landing first on my boobs, then everything else collapsed onto my mat. I was lucky to have not face planted and quickly had gratitude for being well-endowed.

When I got back home after class, I had a texting conversation with a friend, one of my also “well-endowed” friends, and I shared with her my experience. She was concerned that I might be too hard on myself, especially since that particular elbow had a previous surgery. Our conversation sparked some thought and reflection, and then I picked up my pen and wrote.

First, I want to share, it is okay to fall out of a pose, and like life, when you fall, you just get back up and pick up where you left off. Secondly, I didn’t fall because I failed. I fell because “it” failed, regardless, it being my elbow, my strength or balance. I believe that if you go through life not experiencing failure, then you aren’t pushing your limits, exploring your edge, or expanding your comfort zone.

Although the yoga class was hard in a challenging way, I didn’t feel I was hard on my body. Our teacher, Gus, started the class with warning us he had consumed a large amount of caffeine, and in being honest, I felt some resistance flare up in me and immediately thought, “Oh no, this is going to be tough. I knew I shouldn’t have had that second glass of wine last night.” I released that feeling just as quickly as it came up and giggled with an attitude of “Here we go.” No exaggeration, 30+ Sun A Salutations later and only minutes into the class, I was sweating profusely and continually refocusing on my breath. Gus hit us hard for an hour of the 75 minute class, and we delivered.

Not every yoga class I attend is a heated power practice, but when I commit to showing up for my practice, I am all in. These tough classes challenge me and push me beyond my comfort zone. It is in these moments that I exceed my expectations, or more often, my self-limiting beliefs. I surprise myself with endurance and determination. My breath sustains me.

I might be a power yoga junkie, but I’m no superwoman and certainly check my ego at the door. And yes, like everyone else, my mind lies to me, too, and says, “You are going to die. Come out of the pose. Give up. You can’t do it.” But I tell those negative thoughts they aren’t welcome on my mat, and I release them and replace them with, “I’m not dying. I’m not quitting. I can do it.” Then, I do it, not always so gracefully, but I do it.

My yoga practice has helped me become a better person, equipped with more compassion and kindness. But this doesn’t mean that my authentic self is not often inappropriate or that I drift through life seeing all roses and rainbows. The truth is, that today during practice when our teacher had us hold an imaginary beach ball while in extended side angel pose, triangle pose, and revolved triangle pose, I also imagined throwing it at his head. If you ever see me giggle on my mat, it is because I am thinking something inappropriate and I truly crack myself up. There is a cartoon that says, “I am glad my thoughts don’t appear in bubbles over my head.” Well, boy am I glad they don’t because I would be in BIG trouble all of the time! I can’t undervalue a good sense of humor, and often resort to it when I need not take myself so seriously.

I leave my yoga mat stronger every time. I’m stronger physically and mentally, because I also do the inner work, that essence of my being that worked just as hard as my body. I leave class fulfilled with a deep satisfaction, a radical self-acceptance and self-love. Today, I also left class with tears in my eyes with an abundant gratitude for my teacher and our practice. And my boobs.

As a yogi, our spiritual journey doesn’t keep us from experiencing difficult times or facing times of darkness. My yoga journey has instead taught me how to use those dark or difficult times as opportunities to use compassion and kindness, as well as opportunities to learn and grow. It is our challenges, our struggles that make us stronger. Yoga has helped me embrace my reality, deal with it, sometimes gracefully, other times not so much, but I don’t run or hide. I show up for myself and deal. Our strength lies in our ability to accept, let go of what we think it should be, and surrender to what it is.

Today I am feeling strong, physically and mentally, and I am grateful for the gift of yoga in my life.