January, stern and shaming and serious. Here’s the thing about that.
January gives me complicated feelings, because I am such a sucker for all that “new year, new you” bullshit. And as a yoga teacher, part of me is hopeful that this philosophy will lead to full classes of new yoga students, eager to learn and be transformed by Forrest Yoga, as I have been transformed myself. Who doesn’t love a good transformation?
I wrote this earlier in the year, after attending a transformational coaching event:
“I was concerned before (the coaching event) that I didn’t really want my life to be transformed, because it has undergone so much transformation already, and is in a pretty good place. But what was actually transformed was me. My life is the same; my attitude towards it and to myself is completely different. From the outside nothing looks terribly different, but the inside feels so much better.”
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class with me, you’ll know that feeling is the thing I’m concerned about. It doesn’t matter in the slightest what yoga poses look like, despite what Instagram may seem to say. That’s hard. It’s much harder than losing weight, which everyone seems obsessed with in January. Because when there is a shape to make, an alignment to achieve, clear instructions on where to put your arms and legs, then you know when you’re done. You can tick that pose off your list with lip-smacking satisfaction and feel great about yourself and your practice. Perfection! Achievement unlocked! In the same way you can hit your target weight, fit into that dress or buy new clothes in that size and feel the measurement of your success. You can shave seconds off your PB, jump higher, lift more, measure, measure, measure.
And there’s nothing wrong with any of that. Take as many pictures as you like! If your transformation looks different to mine, that doesn’t give me the right to judge it as less important, less transformational.
Here are some of the transformations I’ve undergone in the last five years:
- From couch-dwelling lazybones to attending yoga classes seven or more times a week.
- From size 16 to size 10.
- From pizza and beer lover to grain-free, dairy-free dieter.
- From full-time English teacher to full-time yoga teacher.
All of these transformations have something in common. None of them lasted. I was a size 10 for about ten minutes. These days I’m a size 16 and sometimes 18 again. I no longer take at least one yoga class every day. I’m back to the pizza and beer. I still teach yoga, but I’m also back supply teaching in schools.
Here is the major transformation that has occurred in my life:
I don’t feel like a failure any more. I know that the way I look, the job I do, my yoga practice and the food I eat have absolutely no bearing on my worth as a person. I’m not afraid of complicated feelings. I know that I am loved, valued, and accepted. I know this because I love, value and accept MYSELF.
So, do I now live in a shiny, Instagrammable bubble of perfection because of this transformation? Of course not. There is no way to take a perfect square picture of this transformation. Life is imperfect and difficult and raw and harsh and messy. Just like me. But it’s so much easier to fuck up when it doesn’t mean falling in anyone’s estimation. The mess is manageable when I know that it isn’t a measurement of my worth. As for the measurements, they’re not all that useful to me in this transformation. One of the hardest things for me to accept has been the fact that there is no perfection. I’ll never be done. This work will continue every single day, in a humdrum, non-transformational ordinary manner. It’s just like brushing your teeth.
Past Januaries have generally been about hating myself in a new and innovative way. Taking up a different stick to beat myself with. This January I might take up something new. But whether I keep up with Krav Maga or finally learn to love kombucha, or run faster, jump higher, lift more, I won’t be building a new me. It’s taken me this long to learn to love the old me, and now it’s time to spread that love around a bit.
My yoga classes are not for everyone. They’re not for people whose only pursuit is perfection. They’re not for people who see sweat and strain as markers of success, regardless of how they may be hurting themselves. They’re for people who want to feel, even when the feelings are messy and complicated and hard. They’re for people who want to learn about the unique way that their body works. They’re for people who have real bodies, real jobs, real restraints on their time and energy. They’re for people who deserve to give themselves a break, because they’re doing the best that they can. They aren’t stern and shaming and they’re certainly not serious, because we’re all navigating our own personal transformations, and that’s hard enough without any of that bullshit. I’d much rather laugh and enjoy our imperfections.
My transformation, the real, raw, messy one that is ongoing and uncomfortable and imperfect, started with a block of January yoga classes. That eventually led to my yoga teacher training, which led me to meet my mentor, Jambo, and caused me to rethink exactly what I was seeking to transform and why. Working with Jambo in a compassionate, kind, fun-loving and genuine way transformed my teaching and my practice, but most importantly set me on the path of self-acceptance, self-compassion and self-forgiveness.
If that sounds like your January jam I look forward to meeting you on the mat.
Happy New Year!