Letting Go of “I Can’t”

This past weekend I went on my first ever yoga retreat and it was truly an incredible experience.

For those who don’t know me, I am an introvert. Putting myself in a situation where I have to interact with a group of people I don’t know is is like throwing me to the lions. I freeze up and my thoughts start to wander into some pretty dark places. So going on this retreat was beyond simply stepping out of a comfort zone. In fact, it’s the kind of event that I secretly torture myself over. I so badly want to participate and connect with people, yet I inevitably find a million excuses to feed my fear and justify why I can’t:

  • I don’t really know anyone

  • My yoga isn’t nearly good enough

  • I can’t keep up with “real” yogis

  • I shouldn’t spend the money

  • What will I talk about?

  • I’m scared

Like a character in an old black and white movie, I ban myself to the role of tragic waif, standing in the street, peering longingly through the window at a room full of joyful people, boisterously laughing and frolicking about while I linger in the damp cold, tears rolling down my face.

Sad, huh?

This time, however, when the opportunity to go on a yoga retreat presented itself as a second chance — thank you, person who cancelled at the last minute — I acted purely with my heart, softly shouted “yes!” and paid for the weekend before the fear could kick in, before my brain could even figure out what the fuck was going on!

For three glorious hours on a Monday afternoon I was in a state of pure bliss! Then the I can’ts started rolling in and by Thursday night I was scrambling to find an out. Thankfully, I couldn’t think of one, and so off I went to the retreat, my heart a-quiver.

On Saturday morning, we did a 108 mala practice together. Yeah, I didn’t know what the heck it was either, or it would have definitely been on the I can’t list. Basically, we did 27 repetitions of 4 different sun salutations for a total of 108 sun salutations. The thought was that it would take somewhere between 2–3 hours to complete. Now, I have never done 108 of anything in a row, never mind sun salutations, so you can imagine what was going through my brain as we prepared for the 108 mala practice. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

The first set of 27 sun salutations was dedicated to us letting something that no longer served us go. I chose to let go of “I can’t.” With each breath of each sun salutation, I repeated the same mantra. “I let go of I can’t and I replace it with I am.” My brain fought me. I repeated the mantra. The fear fought me. I repeated the mantra. The cramp in my left calf fought me. I repeated the mantra. That asshole in the restaurant downtown who called me a fatty 15 years ago showed up in my thoughts and even he fought me. I told him to go fuck himself. I breathed in, I repeated the mantra, I breathed out. For 27 sun salutations, I exhaled the thick sticky darkness of “I can’t,” and breathed in the sparkly pink light of “I am.”

When we completed our sun salutations, I couldn’t have been any prouder of myself. And I realized something that never even occurred to me before: there is no space for I can’t when you already are, and that is a glorious thing.