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The Yoga of Defiance

There’s a delicious Tuesday afternoon Yoga class at my gym.

It’s a vinyasa flow class, and the teacher has a warm, grounded presence that makes you believe in magic. She provides cues for each pose, as well as an alternative to take if something isn’t working for you. She makes incredible space for the class. She works us up, we peak, and she works us back down, and my body feels relaxed and my mind feels centered and spacious at the end.

Today there was a sub in for her.

This woman had a firey energy and brought a lot more feminine movement to the class at the start. But then she intensified, not our practice, but her own criticism of “most people” doing yoga. Most people do it wrong this way. Most teachers don’t give you all the adjustments I’m giving you. Most people don’t realize when they do it wrong they can get hurt.

I was slowly alienated throughout the class. She kept us too long in the poses, talking at us about the adjustments we should make. We never built into a rhythm. When it was time for savasana, I was more tense than I had been coming in. I was seething with disdain, and I could feel my defiance.

My defiance said my body wasn’t ready for savasana because she didn’t actually give us a flow. I stretched my hamstrings a bit while everyone else laid back. I went through her crimes in my head, a little worried and a little hoping that she would notice I still needed to stretch, cause she didn't do her JOB. I started labeling my feelings when I realized I was blaming her for how MY body felt. What’s here for me in this feeling of alienation?

I laid back finally into my savasana, and I got in touch with my defiance. I thanked her. It came to me that my defiance is the last-line defender of my boundaries. When something isn’t exactly right, when I’m trying to go with something against my better judgment, when I ignore my feelings for too long, my defiance steps in and says a loud, clear, (often rude) NO. She comes in hot with righteousness by her side and people take a step back. She keeps me safe. She gets me what I want, or she gets me out of what I don’t want.

I’ve judged and shamed my defiance most of my life, and it’s gotten a lot of criticism from outside sources. My parents, teachers, even coaches have made this part of me wrong. But she has never been wrong, and today I started to repair my relationship with her. She shows up every time I need her, she’s powerful when I feel weak or I’m in pain. She doesn’t care who she hurts as long as I’m safe. That’s definitely someone I want to have a functional relationship with.

I was the last person the teacher gave a savasana adjustment. She got close enough to see the tears still on my face. She told me to inhale, and as I exhaled she pushed hard on my shoulders. She's a mighty presence, and her strength felt safe and relaxing. I sent her all my gratitude for helping me look my defiance in the face, for being so firey she got my fire going. She really did her job.

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