Stretch Moment: It’s Not Always About You

Compassion

Sometimes I think I may be most selfish person on the planet.

Earlier this week I decided to drop into a yoga class. That afternoon, I quickly checked the schedule online and saw there was an all-level class at 6pm — perfect! Of course, I got absorbed in something else and by 5:30 I was still at home. So I quickly threw on yoga clothes and ran out to the car. But I had neglected to factor that it had been snowing all day and now the car was covered. Tack on another five minutes to sweep and scrape like a madman, and then I was off at 5:42 … for the 20-minute drive down the mountain. Somehow, I managed to shave a few minutes off and I arrived at exactly 6:00.

As I rushed into the studio, the class was already underway, with the instructor leading everyone in a breathing exercise. The room was dark except for a few candles, everyone had their eyes closed and the room was silent.  No worries, I told myself, you’re barely late. They just started. But as I took a closer look, I saw the instructor shooting me perplexed/exasperated looks. As my confusion mounted, she finally said, clearly annoyed, “class started at 5:45 … which was 15 minutes ago.”

Shit. I must have mis-read the schedule.

As I debated whether to just leave, she stood up abruptly, marched over to the studio mats, grabbed one and told me to grab a seat … and quickly. So I did, feeling like a naughty child who’s been scolded by the teacher.

As I struggled to listen and get into the class, these are the thoughts that started running through my head:

Ugh, this is embarrassing. I wish I could just leave. I should’ve just left … 

Yeah, I screwed up but why did she have to be so snarky about it? …

What kind of yoga studio makes their customers feel so stupid? How un-yogic …

Wait, why are we still lying here breathing? I thought this was a flow class …

Damn — not only did I get the time wrong, this is probably the gentle mat class. Ugh, I really wanted a more active flow class! …

And as my internal self-bashing/indignation over being scolded/annoyance at being at the wrong class continued, I suddenly realized that the instructor’s voice kept breaking as she led us through deep breathing.

Wait, was she crying?

After quickly concluding that there’s no way that my stupid late arrival made her cry, I knew immediately that this wasn’t about me.

Clearly she was dealing with something else and it caught up with her, perhaps pushed to the boiling point by just one more thing going wrong, however small (maybe it was my interruption, maybe not).

After resolving to get over myself and appreciate the gentle class (it turned out to be lovely, and ironically, exactly what my high-strung body and mind needed), I took a mental note to remember this moment. How many times I have I been blinded by my personal reactions, internalizations, and sensitivities, and completely missed someone else’s needs? More than I’d like to admit.

Sure enough, after class when I apologized to the instructor, she apologized profusely and told me about a terrible thing that had happened to her that day and how hurt, frustrated and overwhelmed she was. And judging from the sad, tired look on her face, she clearly felt even worse for losing her composure with me. Immediately, my earlier thoughts seemed petty and self-absorbed. We had a small chat and I did my best to offer some words of encouragement.

Wow. I’ve been there. We’ve ALL been there. And I’m sure I’ll be there again at some point. So for now, I’ll take this small Stretch Moment as a reminder to:

Know that everyone is dealing with something …

Understand that most of the time, it’s not about me, so …

Do my best to put myself aside and act with compassion …

And — realize that maybe I could stand to take a few more gentle yoga classes ;-)

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Chrissy Trampedach
Chrissy Trampedach is a PR & communications pro by day and fitness buff, skiing fanatic, dedicated yogi and wannabe tennis champ by night (and weekend). As a former competitive figure skater, she’s lived a life of training and sports from a young age. Today, she fuels her competitive spirit and drive to challenge her body and mind with USTA tennis, skiing adventures around the world, the SF yoga community and tracking the latest fitness trends. She lives in San Francisco with her husband Tim and their “75-lb lap dog” Enzo.

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