I sat on my yoga mat and eagerly anticipated the start of an introductory session. I was on the hunt for a new yoga class and the studio I was visiting looked promising. But, as the lesson commenced, a sense of dread quickly invaded my enthusiasm. The movements were too hasty, the atmosphere more reminiscent of boot-camp than the serene, tranquil environment I was used to. And I became irritated. This was not the yoga class I was looking for.
I love yoga. It is one of my favourite forms of exercise. And for years I participated in a weekly hour-and-a-half class of stretching, breathing, inner reflection and calm. It was not only a tonic for my body but a place where I could find my centre and still my mind, if only for a little while each week.
As my life changed, my ability to continue attending my favourite yoga class was hampered. I remarried and moved to the other side of the city, began night classes at the local university and got pregnant. A convergence of occurrences squeezed yoga out of my regular routine.
And now, after a four-year sabbatical, I was ready to return to the activity I loved so much. But I hit a stumbling block. My yoga teacher had retired during my leave. I had to find a new class to involve myself in. It should have been a simple endeavour – finding a class that reflected my previous experience of what yoga should be. But I wasn’t having much luck.
Yoga seemed to be different than when I took it up years ago. It was feeling a lot more like aerobics and a lot less like the insightful body-mind merger I understood it to be. While hunting for a new studio, I was bombarded with options for physically demanding classes – vigorous work-outs focusing on profuse sweating, holding long poses or constant movement. More moderate sessions, incorporating consciousness, spirituality and meditation, seemed non-existent and my disappointment intensified. I felt like giving up.
Then, last week, while struggling to hold Downward Facing Dog during yet another trial session, I had a revelation. It wasn’t just a different style of yoga that was blocking my path to a fulfilling experience – it was my own stubborn hold on expectation.
For me, expectation is a stumbling block I come up against more frequently than I care to admit. Too often I catch myself evaluating the events in my life through the lens of past experience and preconceived notions. I realize I’m judging occurrences by what I expect they should be rather than by what they are.
The problem is that while I’m busy comparing the experience at hand to predefined parameters in my mind, I literally overlook the present moment. I fail to absorb any new information; forget to learn from something new. By tying myself to fixed beliefs I, in fact, sabotage my present experiences. I’m ensuring some level of disappointment when events, people and places don’t measure up to my precise expectations.
Living free of false expectations certainly doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t feel dissatisfied with particular events I participate in. Or that I won’t form valid opinions of dislike for certain things. Instead, what it does mean is that I will, at the very least, be willing to participate honestly in each experience, reviewing it based on its own merits – and not dismissing it solely based on my preconceived notions.
Sometimes, like in yoga class, I am dismayed to realize that I have once again fallen into the trap of expectation. That, despite by best attempts to live consciously, I manage to slip into easy patterns of false expectation which negatively influence my attitude. When I recognize it is happening, I need to remember to stop, regroup and move forward in the open-minded direction I always intend to take.
I have no intention of committing myself to a vigorous, exhausting class like Power Yoga anytime soon. I still favour the calming nature and personal insight that a relaxing yoga practice provides. However, while I search for a class that is right for me, I will work to remain present in the moment and learn from what is offered, not what I think should be because of my expectation.