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The Full Wheel

(Spoiler alert- not me.)

I started yoga in January of last year. I mainly stick to Power Flow, and I really enjoy it. When I started, I couldn’t do most of the moves. I still can’t, but I can do more than I could before.

I remember the first time I tried to do a Full Wheel (also known as a Back Bend). I decided to go for it because in my mind, I could see myself doing it. Hands back, feet in position and push up … easy! Well, I got in position and pushed, and literally nothing happened. I lifted off the mat maybe a centimeter and just dropped back down.

I didn’t give up, though; I kept going, and eventually I could push enough to get my head up on the mat. I stayed there for a while, and then, one day this past summer, I could push to my head, and from there do an awkward jiggle up to a Full Wheel. I was so surprised when it happened, because I didn't feel any different in that class, but there I was in Full Wheel. I. Was. So. Proud.

A few months into doing the Full Wheel, I asked a friend to take a picture of me while I was in the position. I imagined myself in my wheel, a graceful rainbow of willpower. What I saw when I looked at the photo was not that. I looked more like a Reverse Table. I was super elongated, and there was little to no bend in my back. I was mortified at how ugly my wheel looked. Not only was I awkward getting into the wheel, I was awkward in the wheel as well. Sadly, when I looked at that picture, I didn’t see months of hard work and progress; I saw someone who still was not getting it, even though she thought she was. I was so embarrassed, I deleted the picture.

This past weekend, I was trying to make myself do a little yoga to compensate for not exercising at all. Eventually, I got to the Full Wheel. I got myself in position to get up into my awkward wheel, but then I did something that shocked me: I pushed straight from the ground up to a Full Wheel. I didn’t have to stop and do my awkward jiggle; somehow I had progressed to the next stage without even realizing it.

True to form, later that week, I walked confidently into my yoga class, and when it came time to push up, I tried to go full-on. I couldn’t. I had to take a step backward and go back to my awkward lead-up: arms, head, then push up.

By now you are probably asking why this super-long post about my progress into the Full Wheel? Since you stuck with me this far I will tell you. I feel like yoga is a lot like therapy. I started therapy a little under two years ago. At first, I couldn’t do much in it. I was not comfortable talking; in fact, I used to whisper and mumble for most of my sessions. I was not confident in myself or my feelings. Despite being in therapy, I kept falling into a lot of the same emotional traps.

Slowly, and subtly, I am finding that just like in yoga, I have been growing emotionally stronger and healthier without really noticing it. How do I know? It’s little things and big things. I talk clearly and confidently in therapy. I have stopped myself from falling into some of my typical traps (not volunteering at every opportunity, saying I need more help at home, taking time for myself and not feeling as bad about it).

But the biggest thing that has happened, my push into an unassisted Full Wheel moment, happened this week. I was on the phone having a conversation with someone about current events and my personal opinion on things. My viewpoints and beliefs did not align with those of the person I was talking with, and at the end of the conversation, the other person stated how disappointed they were and simply hung up.

Old me, pre-therapy me, would have been a mess after that conversation. I would have been obsessed with trying to make things “right.” I would have agonized at night about what they were thinking about me, and how this change in perception in me would ruin our relationship. From there, I would have boiled it all down to how I was a failure as a person.

I can see that behavior so clearly … but that’s not what happened. I hung up the phone and went on with my day. Later, at therapy, I mentioned the conversation, not because it was causing me great pain and anxiety, but because it wasn’t. Somehow, I was able to hear the words “I’m so disappointed” and know that it was not my problem. I was not disappointed in myself or what I was thinking. I had stopped a shame attack before it had even started.

That was a really powerful moment for me, and I was riding high. Much like in yoga, though, there are still steps back. Since that conversation, I have fallen into a shame trap a time or two. I have taken someone’s offhand comment and turned it into a personal attack on me as a mother. But I was able to pull out of it faster. Maybe it wasn’t perfect progress, but even in the steps back, there is still progress.

Today in yoga, I tried a different approach to get into a Full Wheel, this time starting with my legs and then pushing with my hands, and you know what? It worked. I popped straight up.

Therapy can be like that. Sometimes it takes being aware that the old approach you are taking to things may be what you think everyone else is doing, and that’s fine, but maybe it just doesn’t work for you. Maybe you have to look at it a new way or try a new response. But in order to get that perspective, you have to stick to the work, you have to keep trying, and you have to keep pushing for your goal.

My Full Wheel is still not as pretty as I expect it to be — and neither are my emotional responses to things — but it is a lot better than it was. More importantly, I don’t feel the need to delete this picture just because it’s not perfect, or what I think it should look like. It’s a picture of strength and growth, and I know if I keep at it, I will improve.

How we do fancy staged photos at our house.

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