Before I became a yoga teacher, I quit yoga at least a hundred times. When I began practicing with DVDs in my tiny one bedroom apartment, I quit because it was boring. Then, I quit because it was too hard. I quit when I farted in class that one time. I quit once because a teacher actually knew my name, and I was convinced that I was probably going to disappoint her. Oh, then there were injuries (real and imagined) worth quitting over. There was the time I was embarrassed from the panic attack I had during Camel pose, and the time I openly wept during Half Pigeon. I quit over creepy teachers, inexperienced ones, the ones who talked too much, and the ones who didn’t say enough.
I always had a good reason for quitting at the time, but in hindsight, all of the varying reasons boiled down to one. Yoga gave me glimpses of myself: who I was when I was tired, when it got quiet, when I was not good at something, when I didn’t know what was coming next, when I wasn’t in control. To this day, I still quit a little. I get knee deep in my resistance, and I run. I always come back and stay a little longer or go a little further until it’s time to quit again.
This week in class, I was talking about this very topic: staying when things get difficult. I watched as some of them stilled their bodies. At the mere mention of staying in a pose, several others moved about frantically. The moment that called for stillness just so happened to be the one where they needed a drink of water, this one hair needed to be put in place, or the time needed to be checked. When I first began teaching, this type of reaction from my students would have me assuming the worst: they aren’t listening, they don’t respect me, I’m not any good at this. However, in that moment, I was filled with compassion. My students weren’t doing anything that I haven’t done or still do from time to time.
I see them run to the bathroom at the thought of holding Downward Facing Dog for a few more seconds, and I know that in that moment it’s all that’s possible for them. It doesn’t mean that something else won’t be possible later, but in that moment, they are doing their best. There was a time when that was my best, too. I’m grateful I had a teacher who was okay with me quitting. When it became okay to quit, I started to wonder what it would be like to stay. Now, I look out at my class and see so many different versions of myself. I still hold my quitters near and dear to my heart. I can even get excited when they quit because it just means they are that much closer to staying…until it’s time to quit again.