By SSHY student Norah
"You can grow flowers from where dirt used to be."
- Kate Nash, 'Merry Happy'
"I attended a free yoga class that Amanda taught at Lululemon in early 2011 and was blown away by her talent, knowledge, and compassion. I wanted to learn from her. It took me a few months to summon the courage to try hot yoga because I didn’t think I would be able to do it well. I am physically impaired and I struggle with everything yoga demands of a person: flexibility, agility, stability, strength, and stamina. I attended my first Bikram yoga class in May of the same year and it was a boost of detoxifying and peaceful energy. I attended a few more classes sporadically throughout the summer but found that I compared myself to other people too often. It was difficult to leave my ego at the door. I did not make my practice consistent until I decided to take on Amanda’s Rejuvenation Challenge in February of 2012. I attended twenty-five of the thirty classes and was tested in every possible way. I expected (and
wanted) the challenge to show me a linear progression in my ability with the poses, but I found myself on a physical and emotional rollercoaster.
I would have a few tough and humbling classes, then have a comparatively ‘easier’ or ‘better’ class, and then the next few classes would be hard again. There were some days where I felt I nearly fell into the bow pose on the floor and other days where I couldn’t even stretch far enough to grab my feet. On my fifth day of the challenge, I experienced the first of three consecutive pain free days. I had been in chronic pain for nearly three years, and just four yoga classes in a row gave me an unbelievable reprieve. I’d forgotten what it felt like to live without pain. The ache has since returned and practicing yoga helps relieve it, but for those three days I felt like I was free of an abusive relationship.
Two thirds of the way through the challenge, I had a frustrating class and wanted to cry. I lay on my back thinking, ‘I want to cry but I can’t cry. The tears aren’t there.’ A few days later, something inside me broke. I finished class in tears. I went into the change room and, as I was getting changed into my street clothes, I started to cry harder. A couple of minutes later, everything hit me all at once and I sat down and sobbed. I’d been carrying around so much frustration, resentment, sadness, worry, depression and exhaustion. I had tried to keep everything to myself and deal with it alone. Yoga finally forced the feelings out of me. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, but I surrendered to the moment and bawled. I went home and cried for another hour and a half, but I knew then that I’d needed it.
Just before the challenge ended, I had the best yoga class I’d ever had because I shifted my expectations and stopped berating myself when I couldn’t do the poses to their full or correct extent. I realized I had to stop fighting against the limitations of my impairment and work with and through them instead, so I stopped equating ‘I can’t do this pose correctly or as deeply as other people can’ with ‘I’m a bad person’ and the entire class was better and easier. I decided to apply this paradigm shift to every yoga class and every other form of exercise I do.
Five days after the challenge ended, I went to England for the first time in nearly two years to visit friends I’d made in graduate school. Four people whom I met up with told me that my walk was better, I carried myself with more assuredness and confidence and I seemed happier. I will definitely take on another challenge in the coming months. I still don’t feel that I am very ‘good’ at yoga, but the challenge helped me realize that I can develop a consistent practice that I can maintain for life. Self-care isn’t a matter of endgame. It’s about well-being and holistic happiness every day."
- Norah, Winnipeg, MB