Once upon a time, a very active girl had a very bad injury. She hadn’t listened to her body, she hadn’t rested it when it needed rest, and the punishment was severe. After surgery and after a lot of pain and rehab, she was given the green light to start yoga. She’d never done yoga before, but she was finally allowed to do something with her body again, so yoga it was.
Intimidated, she walked into the yoga studio and asked to go to a class. She was shaking, but she didn’t know why. She had a cheap mat like every other newbie, she had yoga pants and a tank top, she had everything that could mark her as Somebody Who Had Done Their Research. The woman behind the desk – a woman this girl would eventually practice with, be friends with, spend hours on a mat with – was very kind and welcoming and told the girl not to be afraid. She’d love it.
And she did.
From February – August of last year, yoga was part of my life. I was in the studio three times a week, taking hot yoga classes and Pilates classes and aerial yoga classes. I learned about inversions and arm balances and spinal alignment. The first time I saw somebody do crow, I thought, “No way. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to do that.” And then, a month later, I got it. Not for long, just long enough to say, “Oh!” and fall. But I got it. I worked at it over and over and over, until I could goof around in the climbing gym and do it. So I did. Often.
When I moved to Edinburgh, I was so overwhelmed I did not go to the gym the first four months I was here. I joined it, but I didn’t go. I didn’t find a yoga studio. I didn’t climb. I did nothing. And then, after more drama than I could take, I realized my body desperately needed to move. I was sitting in my favourite bookstore shaking because I had so much pent-up energy racing through my body, and I realized I needed to climb. I needed to boulder. I needed to move. So I did. My friend Hayley and I started climbing together about 3 times a week. I put all of my workout eggs into that pre-paid basket, and I progressed. I progressed in a major way. From January-April, I went from being a 4+ climber to a 6A+ climber (soooo for my American friends, that’s going from about a 5.8 to a 5.10c).
But I’d forgotten about yoga. I haven’t even unrolled my mat since leaving the US. It’s funny, because yoga was such a calming experience for me, but it was a challenge in the same way climbing is. You have to focus on what you’re doing, think it through, experiment with body positioning and balance, and be willing to fail. Be willing to fail over and over and over again until you don’t fail. When the guys at the gym set new routes, they’ll ask Hayley and I to test them out. “Fine,” I’ll say. “But you’re going to watch me fail a few times.”
Their response? “Good.” Every time.
The thing is, it’s not fun if it’s not a challenge. It’s not fun if you don’t have to work at it, experiment, think your way through. It’s why we continue to climb harder grades – it’s no fun when things are easy.
So yesterday, after a really successful day climbing and finding a new project (a route I couldn’t complete that I want to be able to climb), I wanted to try something.
I wanted to try crow again.
Like I said, I haven’t done yoga in ages. I haven’t tried crow in ages. I haven’t paid any attention to make sure my body could move the way I wanted it to move, but I wanted to try it anyways.
Well, will you look at that?
I came to this program with a story to tell. I have a book in my brain that nobody has written, and I desperately want to read it. I’ve tried to write it a few times, getting a few thousand words in before giving up. It’s a tricky book, a scary one, a book that I believe in so badly but have never been the kind of person who could write it. Since getting here, I haven’t tried to write it once. I haven’t let myself go into that world.
But I’m ready now. Or, if not, I’ve spent so much time thinking about other stories and other characters that it’s time to revisit the big one. The important one. Because the thing about trying crow at the gym was getting it prompted me to try a few other things I’ve never tried before. I tried side crow. I tried dragonfly. I failed at both, but I’m energized to keep trying. I’m going to write this story and it’s going to be clumsy at first and it’s going to be awkward and I’m going to fall on my face in front of my friends and my professor, but I’m going to get it written.
This book of mine will have a birthday. This body of mine will do a handstand. And these things will happen because I know what it feels like to fail – it feels energizing. It feels scary. And it feels more exciting than anything each time I get just a little bit closer to success.