Change, From my Bookshelf, Uncategorized

Lessons from Martha Beck

I’m sitting in the waiting room with my daughter waiting for her to be called back for surgery to repair her torn ACL.


The room is quiet except for the loud hum of a humidifier and the muttering of a woman across from me who hates to fill out forms, can’t read her husband’s illegible handwriting, doesn’t know why doctors need so much information anyway, and can’t understand why her husband always walks away from problems and can’t have a civil conversation with her.


Then I burst out laughing.


I can’t help it.  I’m reading a very serious O Magazine article that outlines the 20 most important questions we should be asking ourselves. I am nodding my head, thinking I should share some of these questions with friends who are trying to find their happy place in life.


Then I read Question 13: Am I the only one struggling not to {fart} during {yoga}?


It just plain cracks me up.


I look at the muttering woman across from me and notice a scowl on her face.  My mood is not improving hers. I want to read the question aloud and see if it might make her at least smile.


I share the question with my daughter and she joins me in the moment of levity.


I’m not confessing anything here but suffice it to say that in a silent, contemplative yoga class that is the bodily function that absolutely must be suppressed.


(A little aside here…I’m fighting feelings of guilt as I write this because my mother’s voice lurks in the back of my mind telling me not to use that f-word because it’s ugly.  She prefers the word stinker if the topic has to be addressed at all.  I can just hear her saying, “Well, I don’t see why you need to talk or write about something like that in the first place.”)


I’m surprised I’m reading this article because it was written by Martha Beck, and I’ve been bitter toward her since she wrote her book Expecting Adam and dissed her parents, her marriage, and her religion.


But in this article, she has listed some good questions.  The point of the yoga question is to substitute your greatest shame or fear and then realize you’re not alone.  Everyone worries about faux pas and once you realize you’re not alone, you take a step toward better mental health, Martha says.


So when I laugh at Question 13 I imagine my yoga teacher, flexible Jane, speaking in her calming, meditative voice as she reaches, stretches, and twists her lithe body.  Then I think of her struggling not to relax too deeply into her poses because … well, you know, the inherent risk of a certain type of overexertion.


Suddenly there is sweet justice in the world.


If I imagine her struggling in her downward facing dog or tipping slightly in her tree pose, there is hope for me.


I like the fact that Martha Beck led me to realize that yoga teachers and everybody else for that matter are not as perfect as them might seem.


Now I’m on a roll.


I think I can even forgive Martha. Maybe she has her own yoga like struggle.  In fact, maybe the complaining lady across from me is just having an off day.  Maybe she’s got her own kind of fill-in-the-blank challenge she’s trying to overcome.


Then I realize.


I’ve gone too far.


Why does everything have to turn into a big life lesson when really it’s just about a little yoga fart?


Reel it in, I tell myself.


Get some perspective.


I reread Question 13 and giggle all over again, and tell myself to lighten up.


After all, sometimes we just need a good laugh.  And the idea of a little yoga faux pas is pretty darned funny to me.




2 thoughts on “Lessons from Martha Beck”

  1. Not ever having taken a serious yoga class, I can’t quite relate to this. But raising 4 boys and teaching 7th grade, I totally get the humor of bodily functions happening inappropriately in an out-of-place setting!

  2. This is why I am really careful about what I eat before a yoga class! No beans about it, all those poses cause some struggle. I always wonder if it’s supposed to be relaxing, why am I sitting there with gritted teeth trying to fit my head under my knee or something? But, it’s just one of those funny little things and not an earth-shattering life lesson.
    I also became a bit leery of Martha Beck articles because of her past statements about her father and Mormonism. But since I never knew her family, I have no way to judge, really.

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