Most Tuesday evenings, I do a yoga class at Dili Wellness run by my friend Emma. Every week, she takes us through a gentle ashtanga-like sequence that generally follows the same pattern of every other yoga class I’ve done – but with one notable exception. Emma puts the balancing poses near the end of the class, instead of having them first or second thing, as is the case in most other yoga classes I’ve done. She explained to me once that she does that deliberately.
“I like doing them when we’re tired, because it takes more effort, and usually, in real life, you’re not going to be completely energised when you’re facing something big,” she said. The tough balancing postures come after the big strength sequences to make us aware of how much our bodies can do, even when our minds think we’re worn out and shout no no no.
I was thinking of that last week, when I lost my temper getting flustered over having trouble hailing a microlet. Stomping home sullenly on foot, I berated myself for not-even-being-able-to-catch-a-bus, let alone do anything bigger or trickier than that – which reminded me, in a sudden flash, of how impatient I used to get with myself in the Bikram yoga classes I’d do in North Perth, when I’d inevitably fall out of every single balancing posture.
The Bikram balancing sequence is pretty tricky, in my opinion, and it comes right at the beginning of the class (three warmup poses – one of which is actually a balance – and then you’re straight into it; to compare, Emma’s come maybe an hour into the class). Which meant, inevitably, I’d have my first stack maybe ten minutes in, and spend the next hour of the ninety-minute-long class frustrated with myself for my incompetence, my physical weakness, my lack of focus – whatever my mind decided to throw up in that moment of vulnerability as I settled back on the mat – and forget to enjoy the majority of a class I was doing because it was something good for me.
I reckon I fall out of balances more frequently in Emma’s class than I ever did in Bikram. And it doesn’t bother me at all.
That’s because they’re meant to be hard, I realised, as I shook my head no at a taxi flashing its lights and rounded the corner for home that sulky afternoon. I’m expecting them to be. On Tuesdays, I know I’m tired going into the balancing poses, so I’m giving myself permission to have trouble with them, to fall out of them, to get back up and have another go (every adage about dusting yourself off and trying again rings painfully, literally true in a yoga class). In Bikram, I’d decide that because it was the beginning of the class, because I had energy, because other people were doing the poses fine, because whatever reason, I wasn’t allowed to have trouble with them; I had to master every balance and keep my focus tight.
I waved hello to mana Angelina and slipped through the gate at the front of our house, crossing the dusty courtyard to my tiled verandah steps. Keys somewhere in my bag. I have no expectations when I hit Emma’s balancing sequence – and that’s a perspective I’d do well to take outside of yoga, too.
“You haven’t been there long enough to be feeling particularly settled I wouldn’t have thought,” was a line in an email reply I received this week, about my first few weeks in Dili. I’m a little embarrassed to say it was a lightbulb. Of course not. I’ve just decided that because I’ve caught the number 10 microlet a few times I need to have its entire route memorised. Just because I say hi to Angelina every day of course means I have to think up a new thread of (Tetun) conversation every time I enter the house. Two months in Dili and I’m still without a car; terrible. Ugh. I spent so much time and energy in the mental space between where I am and where I think I should be, and it’s exhausting.
And I don’t even need to be doing it!
I’m just as graceful (or not) in Emma’s yoga class as I was in every Bikram class. And the single biggest difference between those angry Bikram classes and my blissed-out Dili practise is this: I have no expectations of myself in that balancing sequence, so I just take it as it comes and keep going through.
A good, graceful reminder for me as I continue balancing life in Dili. Falling out and grinning my way back up.