I have this voice inside my head. Sometimes it tells me the truth, but sometimes it lies to me. Sometimes, this voice tells me that I am doing a good job, that I am learning new things, that I am doing life right, but other times, it tricks me. It whispers all my old doubts in my ear and makes me believe I can’t do things. I try to ignore it, but sometimes it wins, even though I wish it didn’t.
In my practice, I hear this sneaky little voice every day. I try to ignore it, and sometimes I am successful, but other days, the voice wins. When I started doing ashtanga 5 ½ years ago, I touched the ground with the very tip of my finger in a forward bend for the first time in my life (really). I had been doing yoga for a while and I had been trying and trying to gain some flexibility in my forward fold. Doing ashtanga regularly made a huge difference and I have seen huge improvements in how my body feels, but I still hear myself telling people I am not really flexible. It isn’t true, I am flexible. I can do things that most average people cannot do, but the voice, it tells me I can’t. It is in these moments that I have to remind myself that I have grown both mentally and physically since that first class 5 ½ years ago.
I am learning new things each day and getting deeper into the poses that I never imagined for myself. I love this, but that voice, it creeps in again and again. It also tells me that backbends hurt, but they don’t. They used to hurt. It was painful to push up into urdhva dhanurasana and I thought doing three backbends was going to be the death of me. And for a while, it was. If I am completely honest, they don’t hurt any more, and in fact they kind of feel good (okay, that first one is a bit rough still, but after that each one feels better). However, every single day, after I finish doing my series, I lay on my mat and try to convince myself it will be okay. I breathe, look at the ceiling, sometimes my teacher gives me the look, and then I think, you are fine, just do it, and I do. Lately, I have been standing up from urdhva dhanurasana, dropping back, and coming right back up, and it feels amazing, but I still have that moment when the voice tries to tell me I can’t do it, and I have to remember that it isn’t true, at least not any more.
In February, I will have my 6 year ashtangaversary (yes, I celebrate every year) and I will have been doing Mysore 6 days a week for 2 ½ years. When I think of what I could do in my very first class in comparison to what I can do now, I can’t believe how I have grown. I am more confident in my every day life and I know this is because I come into the Mysore room and face my fears and struggles before I do anything else. When I get frustrated or feel stuck, I remind myself of all the things I couldn’t do before that I can do now. This is why I love ashtanga, it teaches me to be a better person, to believe in myself, to be patient, and to persevere.
That voice is still there, but it is getting quieter.