For more than 27 years, I lived undiagnosed with Pure O, a form of OCD that is associated with horrible intrusive thoughts.
From what I understand, yoga is supposed to be relaxing. It's used as a form of both physical and mental therapy and I totally believe it works for most people, but I always leave yoga classes feeling ten times as tense as when I entered. My mind races, my muscles tense, and I'm constantly fighting the urge to bail on the class altogether.
This is what my inner-dialogue looks like during a typical yoga class:
Where does one purchase a CD composed entirely of grass flute music? Who is even recording these albums? Are there recording studios in the middle of peaceful meadows dedicated to this niche market?
What is everyone else thinking about right now? Are their minds really cleared? How do they remain aware of their bodies and free their minds of all thoughts at the same time? All this meditating is doing for me is making me acutely aware of a bead of sweat that is slowly but surely traveling into my butt crack. But yeah, I feel relaxed. Cool. This is good.
Ok, I'm not relaxed yet but it's going to happen. It'll come to me any minute now.
Oh my God, I am so bored. Why can't we move yet? Can I skip ahead? Next pose, please!
Wait what is everyone doing? I think the instructor just used a secret yoga code word and I missed it. Is everyone doing headstands? I'm not wearing the right bra for this. Oh we're doing plank again. Holy crap my forearms are sweaty, how did they get so sweaty? I can't do plank like this, it's a safety hazard.
I hate this. When does the relaxation kick in? I think I just pinched a nerve in my shoulders. Literally zero positions feel comfortable, is my body broken? I'm too fit for this to be so difficult. How has it only been 20 minutes? I've made a terrible mistake.
So, after savasana, when everyone is feeling refreshed and basically floating out of the class like butterflies just gliding along with their relaxed muscles and happy thoughts, I'm stomping out of the class like a snorting dragon who needs a massage to get rid of all the knots I created by remaining tense and angry for an hour straight.
I know yoga isn't easy for anyone in the beginning, which is why I kept putting myself through it. I went to different classes, talked to several instructors, and tried countless videos of varying yoga styles. Eventually, I decided to commit myself to doing yoga for 20 minutes every day for 30 days straight. I figured if I could get into the habit of doing it and see some results, something would finally click for me. So every night before bed I would watch a video and complete all the moves. At the end of the 30 days I felt better rested, my body looked leaner, and I was clearly more flexible, but on day 31 I tossed that video aside faster than you can say "namaste."
Over the years, I tried out more classes, took YouTube video recommendations, and even tried "HIIT Yoga" in hopes that the faster pace would make it harder for my mind to wander, but nothing worked. I completed no less than three more 30-day challenges, but each time I'd hit day 31 and breathe a deep sigh of relief, elated to be free of my yoga shackles.
Every time I did yoga on a consistent basis, I could feel my body responding to it. I could tell that my muscles recovered from my intense workouts faster and that I slept more soundly if I did a yoga routine before bed. I knew it was good for my body, so I suffered through every minute of every routine in a flurry of curses with my jaw clenched, my brow furrowed, and my mind screaming. While lying in corpse pose, I always had to massage my face to try to get it back to a neutral expression, because yoga seemed to imprint rage onto my face and threaten to leave it that way.
During my final self-imposed 30-day yoga challenge, I contacted a friend who had not only been with me during my first yoga class, but had since become a licensed yoga instructor. I told her that I was once again trying to force myself to fall in love with yoga and asked if she could recommend any videos or even paid programs that would work for me. My tone was hostile, almost like I was daring her to find a program that wouldn't make me miserable.
Like a true yogi, she was ridiculously kind and gentle and said, "Rease, maybe yoga just isn't for you."
That's such a yogi thing to do. There I was being a surly hater and she was all "it's not your journey."
These freaking yogis, man, even when you're frustrated, they're concerned about your well-being. I realize that yoga is super good for my body and it has endless health benefits, but I freaking hate it. Part of those benefits are supposed to be mental and spiritual, but all yoga does to me is turn me into a crotchety rage monster, so if anyone ever tries to convince me to go to another yoga class, I'm going to sound three "Ohm hell no's" and peace out.