Yesterday, I worked through what I am sure was one of my top three most difficult yoga practices ever. My body resisted every asana, and my mind, instead of calming me and breaking down the resistance, just kept making excuses and helping me berate myself. The list of excuses is long: I’m tired, I have horrible cramps and hurt everywhere, I look disgusting in the mirror, I’m doing too much, I’m going through a rough transition, I can’t handle everything I’m suddenly responsible for, it’s the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death, and the one that became my mantra, I didn’t sign up for this.
All of those were true. And no, I didn’t “sign up for this,” but this is what I have.
Today, I spent my entire practice thinking about how silly “I didn’t sign up for this!” sounds. If we all got to choose our perfect lives, we wouldn’t have any opportunities to change and grow. Without challenge, we would stay the same; as the world changes, if we stay the same, we decline by default. “I didn’t sign up for this” began to sound whiny and petulant, and I spent a good portion of class laughing (sometimes obviously laughing) at myself for spending so much time and energy on a thought that did nothing to serve me.
Many people come to yoga because they hurt. What takes a long time to understand is that sometimes, it hurts more. Yoga is a lot of things, but it isn’t a magic eraser. For me, it’s been a way to prove that I can change the things I can, and let the things I can’t fall away for a while, until (if) they, too, become things I can. It’s been a way to just be okay with feeling not-perfect (or downright horrible) in a moment, to show me that I can make it through that time and that whatever it is will pass. Because of yoga, I can suppress thoughts of “give up, quit NOW!” for ten, twenty, ninety minutes. After the practice is complete, the idea of “quit” sounds irrational, and I’m thankful for the series and the teacher and the other yogis that all (unknowingly) work together to keep me from fleeing the room.
There’s a big difference between walking away from something because you get very real bad vibes, and walking away because it is difficult. My goal is not to make my life easy. My goal is to make my life better. True, I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t sign up for any of it—not the hard things, not the unfair things, not the horrible and ugly things, not even the amazing and beautiful things. If I refuse to accept something just because I didn’t ask for it, I’m also closing myself off to the good things and resisting the things that could become beautiful.
No, I didn’t sign up for any of this. This is what I got, and that is great. I can sign up to try to change it, to try and make it better. Just like in yoga, when I am tired, exhausted, depleted, I will rest—not give up.