It's All About that Om?

Breathe, darling, this is just a chapter. It’s not your whole story.

--- SC Lorie

One day I will be abel to do this!

They say yoga is great, that it helps no matter ails you. Old, young, flexible, not-so-much—yoga is touted as a great exercise and life philosophy.

Try as I might, I just can’t seem to get my Om on. This morning, while desperately trying to hold that downward dog, I was distracted by so many things. Constance, the teacher, cautioned the class not to look at anyone else and to concentrate on our own posture and thoughts. “Set an intention for your practice,” she said. “Dedicate your practice to your intention or to someone else.”

But, try as I might, I wasn’t getting it. I’m a yoga failure and this is why.

1.       During downward dog, the guy next to me kept fiddling with his toes. Unable to speak or shout or tell him to play with his toes in the privacy of his own home, and not in a yoga studio with roving eyes (okay, mine) I found myself distracted, feeling a need to imagine something other than larger than life hairy toes, which only conjured further images of toes.

 2.       Constance continued her mantra “Focus on your breath. Breath is life. It’s called prana.” I could only think about Jethro Tull’s Locomotive Breath, hardly a soothing backdrop to life’s energy source. In the shuffling madness, Of the locomotive breath, Runs the all-time loser, Headlong to his death the beat is hurting my heart, my lungs and my soul. Oh, Constance, I’m trying, but Jethro’s got me by the…back of the neck.

 3.       All that breathing and stretching and backbending scares me. I like my exercise to keep me upright, not downward. Staring through my legs at the person behind me feels like an abomination, made even more so when he or she is not bending and is staring back at me. This is no way to relax, am I right?

 4.       The yoga mats of robin’s egg blue real estate become mini retreats for the practitioners. We exist only in the moment, called mindfulness, says Constance, while we focus on the present. We are encouraged to carry today’s success on the mat to the world where life is not so easy or within our control. This, of course, assumes that what we’re doing now is controllable, while my legs flail and my arms sag. My elbows just won’t point straight upwards like we’re instructed, and my legs can’t possibly elevate “like a dot on the ceiling.” If I am a failure on my blue oblong, does that portend a rotten rest of my day?

 5.       “Still your mind”, Constance says. “Notice intrusive thoughts, without judgement, then let them go”. But, wait, I want to say. How can I just let them go? At this point in my life, what I’m worried about is the void between my ears, and Constance is telling me to empty my mind? This is too difficult.

And so I leave the yoga studio one hour later, defeated, deflated and devoid of any real revelation or elevation. My path to enlightenment is not to be found on an oblong of azure blue. Sorry, Constance, I am leaving. But, it’s not you. It’s me.

 Have you tried a health practice or exercise routine that just didn’t work for you? Did you find something that worked better?


Hello, I’m Janet, career coach, writer, workshop leader.

I help women create their best lives through personal writing.