Awkward pose

While researching the second part of my yoga post, I came across a list of yoga poses that mentions “utkatasana” or Awkward Pose. Awkward. No kidding. That brings me to what happened after I overslept for my first yoga class.

After going through all the trouble of buying sports clothes, I wasn’t going to waste my momentum. So I planned a new appointment in the evening, figuring that would make it harder to oversleep (well, unless I was going to take a nap after work). Again, I was so grateful for not having to call but being able to simply book online. I probably would have had to rehearse the phone call in my head about 5 times before being able to call. If I would have done it at all. I know other people don’t show up for appointments too. But I have this rigid rule in my head that says it’s simply NOT OK and that’s why I need to have an excuse and sleeping late is not a socially acceptable excuse and oh my god ANXIETY. So, it felt good to avoid all that.

Tuesday evening arrives and I make my way down to the yoga studio. When I step in, there’s a big sign saying “no shoes” and an arrow pointing to an area next to the reception desk. There are other shoes sitting there. Good, I like clear instructions and this gives me something to do while I take stock of my surroundings. A white cellar with a round, low ceiling and no windows. This is the sort of location the city is famous for and it definitely has its charms, although in all likelihood it’s going to be very hot on this summer evening.

Example of medieval cellar (photo by Puur* events)

I say to the woman manning the desk that I’ve come for my first lesson, she tells me to go ahead and pick a spot. At the back I notice some people so I walk over there thinking maybe one of them will look like they could be the teacher. No, they are changing into different clothes and putting their bags in lockers, so I copy their behaviour. When I’m done doing that I turn around and notice nearly all the yoga mats are now occupied. I start getting a little bit anxious because I don’t know what is acceptable behaviour in a yoga class. Should I take the nearest mat? Does everyone have a favourite spot? Where is the teacher? What should I do? How can I avoid offending people?

As I slowly walk between the mats, trying not to bump into people doing yogaish stuff (meditating?), I notice that even the mat that I’d sort of picked out has a towel lying on it. Oh bugger. Full panic now. And then I do something that I’m still awfully proud of: I walk back to the reception desk and say to the woman: “I’m sorry but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I have an autistic spectrum disorder and new situations make me anxious. Could you help me get started?” GO ME! You’ll have to imagine the flat voice, slight stutter and frowny face for yourself. However, she immediately says, “No problem! Come along, I’ll walk with you to the back where you can get your own yoga mat and then we’ll find a spot for you where you’re comfortable and can see what I’m doing.” So I guess she’s the teacher then. GO HER! This is all kinds of awesome.

During the yoga class I have several more moments where I get a bit overwhelmed, especially when the instructions are very verbal (like “stretch your left hand, bend your right knee, twist your body to the right while stretching out your right hand behind you and then twist your head to the left”. OK, I lost you at stretch your left hand. Which side is left again?). During the sun salutation, a classic flow of yoga poses that I used to love doing as a child, the instructions follow each other so rapidly that I freeze completely. But then I remember. This is yoga. It doesn’t matter if I can’t do it perfectly. I’ll get there in my own time. Breathe. Find a pose that works for my body, instead of frantically trying to figure out what everyone else is doing. Breathe. Stretch. Breathe. I wait out the sun salutations and start participating again when the class moves to the next pose.

At the end of the class, I’m very dizzy so I don’t get up when everyone else does. I’ll get there in my own time. I think this is the most valuable lesson yoga can teach me. The muscle control, the workout, and the stretching are just a bonus. And even with my imperfect execution, I already feel like the child I used to be, just enjoying the movement. Now I just need to find a tree to climb.

Update: apparently the best tree for tree-climbing is in Wallington, Northumberland (UK).

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2 thoughts on “Awkward pose

  1. Oh, so you DID get to do the yoga class after all! 😀

    “I’m sorry but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I have an autistic spectrum disorder and new situations make me anxious. Could you help me get started?” – Yes, GO YOU! As well as being a massively brave thing to do, you worded that really well. I’m probably going to end up stealing this phrase myself, actually. xD

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