I flunked aerobics three times.
That is what I tell students when they ask me how I got started with yoga.
I had joined a gym because I thought I should be 'working out', like the others. But by the third or fourth aerobics class I developed an upper respiratory ailment causing me to miss two or three classes. Of course, I couldn't go back to the class. So I would begin again the next term. And again I became ill. After the third time I decided my body did not like aerobics and I should find something else to do.
Understand that I was not the athlete in the family nor was I even interested in such endeavors. While my brother, cousin, neighbors, friends were outside playing, I was curled up in a corner, reading a book, daydreaming, anything but moving. It is as much as a surprise to me as to my family that I am not only practicing yoga but standing up in front of people and teaching them the poses.
While I was trying to attend aerobics classes I kept receiving flyers for yoga classes in my mail. I never requested such information but periodically they would come. Finally I signed up for two classes at the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center: all levels, Monday and Thursday at noon. And for most of the next five years I attended classes - Beginners - until Julie told my class that some of us could move to the next level. I swear that she was looking straight at me!!
Those first few years my mind was so disconnected from my body that I would pray that whatever instruction the teacher gave would go into my ears and out the right limbs!! After awhile the poses began to become familiar to me. But it wasn't until I bravely traveled all the way to Helena, Montana and the Feathered Pipe Ranch to attend a week long yoga ''vacation'' that I crossed over from attending to understanding.
Why did I keep attending classes when it didn't seem like I was making progress? In that first term of classes the teacher asked us to 'walk' up the wall backwards. I knew that I couldn't do that so I went to ask her for an alternate pose. When she turned towards me, and before I could say my well-rehearsed request, she simply said: 'You haven't done this before, go to the front wall and I'll be with you in a minute.' Still believing that she would give me something else to do, I went to the front wall. When she came to me she gave me specific instructions, which I followed. Suddenly, I thought to myself: 'How the hell did I get upside down?' For the first time in my life, someone told me that I could do something that I didn't believe that I could do and then helped me to do it.
Yoga (and my first teacher) has taught me to believe in myself. That there is a way for me to accomplish my goals. I might be slower than others. I might need more props/help. But I can get there.