Yoga as teacher

I had been having issues with my flexibility. Like, bad.
Normally, I’m a rather bendy girl. I’ve always taken pride in that. I could do all sorts of things when I was younger that made other people cringe or drool in envy. Then my shoulders started to go, and I can no longer clasp my hands tightly behind my back, one from top one from bottom. I can barely touch now, and only in one combination. I used to be able to do splits (both kinds), and now not so much.

But still, I am normally a rather flexible girl.
Then I wasn’t for a bit. Literally, sitting with my feet stretched out in front of me was too tough. This was just as recently as a week or two ago. I’ve been working on it, stretching after lifting or cardio, doing a few poses here and there, randomly touching my toes for fun. But seriously, it’s been a pain.

Last night at yoga was no problem. I was quite able to fold in half at the waist and hug my legs no problem.

Ok, I’m not complaining, and I’m very glad to have my bendyness back, but it has brought up this issue I’ve been struggling with for some time now.

I don’t like doing things I’m not good at. And if there is something I’m good at, I’m sure to at least get a certain amount of satisfaction out of doing it, even if it’s not my favourite thing. But take something I can’t do, or I’m not “naturally” good at, and I nearly hate it. I certainly dislike it, and usually don’t bother with it.

But, sometimes, I think this is little more than a defense mechanism. Kinda like not having money and saying it’s ok because you didn’t want the new nifty tv or steak or whatever anyway. My mom used to do that all the time. My dad too, to some extent. It’s always been annoying to me, because it also meant that rarely was something saved up for. My parents were seriously bad at any sort of financial planning, and all I’ve ever learned on the subject I’ve learned on my own (and many times I find very hard to put into practice, because of my upbringing and mindset).

I do this quite often. I “don’t like” writing, because I never really learned how to write well, and noone really does it “naturally.” I don’t mind it now that I can get consistent As and Bs on papers and understand where I’m going wrong.
I “don’t like” running, or anything endurance based. I’ve never really done it, and frankly, my muscles aren’t built for it. Not necessarily because of anything fundamental like my genetics or physique… just because I’ve never trained that way… so I don’t have the copious amounts of slow twitch muscle fibers that make that sort of thing “easier.” I can sprint tho, and I’m good at it. I’m surprisingly fast (once I’ve been training a smidge) considering I have stumpy legs.

I do certain things very well, seemingly totally naturally. It makes the things I don’t do well seem odious chores by comparison. But I can play instruments and I understand music quite well. I can sing, I’m just not great at it and I’ve not ever done it in an environment where I’d improve. I am creative and artistic, I can draw, but because I wasn’t the person who could “naturally” pop out some recognizable something or other, I felt I sucked.

My early years were spent doing a lot of “enrichment” because I was “gifted.” I was in a number of plays, helped design and build sets and costumes, and helped everyone with their lines. I was part of the young astronauts program. I was in chorus. We drew and painted and made all sorts of things that weren’t ashtrays out of clay. We were smart, see, so we didn’t need to spend hours on homework and learning what we already knew… we were expanding our minds in other ways. Which, of course, would help to make us smarter and more creative.
Great idea.

Till there was no longer a program at school to do that for you. Until your focus gets so drawn into having to be a smart, successful, science-y girl that you no longer have any time for anything that isn’t what you’re being pushed toward. Which might be ok, if that was what you really wanted, but what if you didn’t? How would you know?

If everything you put your hand to you’re good at, how do you learn to be good at things you’re not inherently good at? Especially when you weren’t “inherently” good at anything… just that the repetition and focus made you good. The same way it made other people good at the stuff you wanted to be good at.

I never learned to study in school. “Studying” meant memorizing math facts and doing copious amounts of homework in a vain attempt to understand what was going on so you didn’t fail a test. I didn’t need that. I did well because I was smart. Because I understood the ideas behind the work and therefore didn’t need to try to memorize the steps, because I understood the problem.

The end result of all this is that I instinctively dislike that which I seem to be not good at. (You have no idea how long it took me to not hate computers… I had to get out from the influences of others and force myself to understand a very foreign concept.) I shy away from things I’m not good at, even things I like to do or want to be good at.

This is a huge frustration for me. Because I do this with my art. Because, after 13 or 14, my life was so focused on all that science stuff, because I’d be the first person to get a college degree in my family… because girls weren’t supposed to like science and math and therefore I had to love them…. I never did much. I didn’t take a single art class in high school. I doodled occasionally, and I was in band (where I could only sort-of play sax because I didn’t practice much because of the above stated reasons), but other than that… I was nowhere near artsy-fartsy. Because somehow that was bad and aimless and listless and dreamy and not gonna get me to be a hugely successful science-y type.

In NY at the time, you had to have a number of completed sequences in various subjects to get a regents diploma. So I needed a math sequence of 4, a science sequence of 4, a art-type sequence of 4, a foreign language sequence of 4… and 4 engrish and 4 social studies were required for any diploma.
Funny… you only needed two math and science to get a diploma, but 4 english and social studies. I’d see this as less ironic if I’d actually learned how to WRITE in english in high school. But all I ever got was reading and comprehension… two things I already excelled in.
So, that left no room for trying different things… no room to decide you might want to replace music with art, certainly no room to have music and art.
I suppose I should have given up my lunch hour, then I could have had art… maybe.

My school was hugely into the arts… we had something like 4 choirs, 4 bands, and many of the people in them were also honors students, accelerated, and tied for high GPAs. (I do believe all of our top students in my class, at least the top 10 all had some involvement in at least one of the music programs.) Visual art was left behind somewhat… probably because it didn’t sell tickets the way football (oh, we were a fairly sports-oriented school as well) and concerts did.

My point?
All this being pushed in a certain direction… and having a certain ability level in some things… left me hugely ambivalent to anything that I wasn’t already super-awesome in. Why? Well… who likes not being perfect? (I’ve mentioned I’m a bit of a perfectionist… haven’t I?) The idea of actually working for something that I wanted, even if I wasn’t great at it, was a rather foreign concept for me. Hell… this even led to me getting fat. I was naturally an active, healthy, slim girl. The idea of working it wasn’t something that ever occurred to me… even though I was, I just didn’t see it that way.

I’ve never seen it that way. And that’s the point. It’s always been something I like to do, and I’ve been good at it, so it’s not work. I’ve never had to really face this until there were things I liked to do, wanted to do, that I wasn’t particularly great at. Like work out and eat well to work at being thin(ish). Like draw and doodle for the fuck of it to hone some artistic skill. Like save money for something I want to buy that’s more than a couple bucks.

These are such odd concepts to me… or at least they were… that I’ve been derailed by a number of them over time without even realizing it.
And in yoga last night… I bent myself in half with nary a thought about it… because I worked at it. Even though I didn’t use to have to. I do now.

I want to have a certain body. I have a hard time working for it. It seems so hard. It seems it will never happen.
I want to be a good artist. I have a hard time working for it. It seems so hard. I feel like I suck at it.

Two weeks ago I wanted to be flexible again. It seemed so hard. It hurt so much.
Last night, I had no issues in a yoga class.

Obviously, this shit just takes some work.

It’s the little victories that keep us going sometimes.

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