Are You Self-Conscious in An Accepting Environment?
Yoga class functions as a sanctuary, a time to gather with others in order to gain deeper insight and motivation through practicing as a group. The beauty lies somewhere between quieting the mind to outside distractions and opening your practice to the energy of those around you. This can be enriching and humbling as well as unbelievably nerve-wracking. While everyone else seems to be sharing of one breath and one beating heart, the particularly apprehensive among us will be frantically pacing their Om’s so as to not come in noticeably off-key. For many, the challenges of yoga begin the moment they step into a studio, suddenly self-conscious of how the unrolling of their mat makes an ugly slapping sound when it hits the floor.
Or how they inexplicably chose an awkward spot in the far left corner and now everyone will have to step over them to reach the prop closet. How they are the only man, or the oldest, or clearly in the worst shape, and shouldn’t be here at all. Yoga class provides ample opportunity for comparisons and self-doubt, especially for a practitioner already prone to anxiety. And yet the teacher still insists we all meet and do this together, over and over again, what is wrong with her?
Expose the Fears as the Needless Limitations That They Are
It seems that any time we are asked to act in ways that render us vulnerable, a group setting only intensifies the pressure of performance and judgment. However yoga gives us the opportunity to confront many of our deep-seated fears by encouraging us to connect to the self. Yoga returns us to our heart center where peace resides. Through the very practice of its difficulties, yoga gives us tools to battle anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and fear, both on and off the mat. The act of even showing up to class is brave. Chances are you will twist the wrong way, shake, sweat, pant like a dog and even fall down in front of strangers, and still you’re here.
In fact everyone is here facing their own unique doubts about themselves, and there is strength to be gained from showing up together, for each other. During one of the more memorable classes of my life, our teacher turned on music, dimmed the lights and asked us to close our eyes; she then instructed us to dance. No one is watching, she promised, my eyes are closed too. I listened to the sounds of those around me, tentative at first but with increasing confidence, beginning to move. And for a few minutes I found myself simply dancing in the dark, no doubt very badly, but with a sense of freedom that I had never experienced before. It was liberating.