It’s a Sunday morning yoga class. What’s the opposite of a mixed bag? A homogenous bunch? That’s what we are. The differences are subtle. Some wear prAna gear, others Lululemon. I’m the anomaly in the room with a worn-out tank from Target. I hope no one notices the small holes, but they probably do.
It’s a popular class because it’s both peaceful and challenging. And everyone loves the teacher, Benn with two n’s. He’s inspiring, always pushing us to push ourselves. And the dedication to his practice manifests so strongly in his body. (Translation: He’s hot.)
Today he’s talking about getting out of our comfort zones.
“Break out of your boundaries,” he tells us in that breathy yoga voice. “Challenge yourself. See what you can do. Bend deeper into the stretch. Jump back into chaturanga. See if you can go just a little further than you think you can.”
I’m feeling in the zone, breathing through the discomfort that comes with more intense stretches. I tune into every muscle in my body and kick my legs back into chaturanga,
But before my feet touch down onto my mat, they hit something else.
It seems to happen in slow motion.
First, the fleshy texture against my heel, and then gasps from neighboring yogis.
Shit. I’ve kicked someone in the face.
I pivot around, and my eyes connect with the glare of an outraged blonde. She has the bionic body of a Westworld character.
“I am so sorry,” I say, both out of fear and a piercing sense of guilt.
She acts like she doesn’t hear me, shifting herself away to shun me, holding her head in her hands. Benn comes over to assess the damage. His presence is good. She rubs her cheek, where my heel had collided, and whispers something to him. I can’t hear exactly what she says, but have the feeling it’s a more polite version of, “That clumsy bitch hurt me, but I’m stronger than the pain! Don’t stop the class. I’ll push through.”
She reassumes the downward dog position and class carries on as normal. Bionic blonde scoots her mat away from mine, still behind me, but now out of striking distance. As we push up into warrior one, I try to catch her eye, but she averts her gaze.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, but get no acknowledgement.
The tension between us is so strong, I almost feel like there’s physical strings pulling at my energy. She is so angry, and I feel so guilty. I want to be relieved of this feeling. I want her to hear my apology and acknowledge that it was just an accident. I didn’t mean to kick her in the face. I would never want to kick anyone in the face, least of all someone with such a terrifyingly strong physique.
“I’m sorry,” I try again, louder. This time she flits her eyes at me, then quickly away, flipping her face-framing bangs to the side like a curtain that can hide me from view.
I am at a loss. We go through a few more flows, and then get the cue to bring our mats to the wall for inversions. As we move over, I try one more time.
“Hey,” I say, “I can’t believe I was so clumsy, I feel terrible. I am so sorry.”
She looks at me for a moment without saying anything. But then her eyes, soften and she says, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it.” She even smiles at me. It’s a little fake, but still a smile. And mostly a performance for Benn, but I’ll take it.
And as easily as that, the strings of tension are cut. I have been forgiven. Begrudgingly, but still forgiven. I feel the relief in my body, and am so grateful.
What a gift it is.
I remember seeing a quote –something along the lines of “Withholding forgiveness is like taking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.”
The irony might be on point, but I’m not so sure about its accuracy. When someone withholds forgiveness from me, I do feel sick. It matters.
As we move into savasana, final relaxation, my mind drifts to a friend of mine. Let’s call him Shaun. He had been close to me, and he had hurt me. He had apologized, explaining that it wasn’t his intention to cause me harm. But, I stayed angry. His apology wasn’t going anywhere with me.
As I lay in savasana, I began to consider how Shaun felt when I was mad. Probably the way I felt when bionic blonde refused to meet my eyes – but on an amplified scale. After all, he and I had been good friends, not just colliding yogis.
Class ends with some closing “oms,” and Benn brings us back to the original intention.
“Break out of your boundaries,” he reminds us. “Challenge yourself to do something you didn’t think you could do before or … wouldn’t do before.”
And I do. After class, I pull up Shaun’s number and give him a call.
It’s not worth it to stay so angry.