:the yoga lesson of Disney’s “Frozen”
by Stephanie Keiko Kong
If you know the song, you’re singing it in your head right now.
There’s a lesson for yoga practice in there. Yeah. I didn’t know either. The lesson is this: If you look perfect in practice, yer doin’ it wrong.
I was actually sick of “the Frozen song” until a new favorite yoga teacher used it to teach this badass lesson.
Let that image shit go.
I was traveling through San Francisco one autumn, desperately seeking yoga. I was sore and lethargic from sitting on airplanes and eating irregularly and not moving my body.
The only class I could fit in was an advanced level hot vinyasa flow. Right away, I was like “ugh, not my style.” I mean, I love practicing challenging poses at home, but this would be in public. In a heated room. With a teacher I didn’t know. At a strange studio. In a city far from home.
I felt really, really self-conscious.
I worried that I’d fall on my face and embarrass myself, so I kinda wanted to hide. I worried that the teacher wouldn’t immediately recognize that I’m a teacher, so I kinda wanted to stand out.
But I was desperate for a class.
“I can handle this,” I told myself. “I’m good at yoga!”
Ego can be a bitch.
I walked up ten minutes before class, and there was a line of people waiting to check in. When I got into the huge room, the only spots left were near the very back or way up front. I took a spot in front, hoping that this clearly very popular teacher was one of those ignore-the-front-row types.
He bounced in radiating “lessss goooo!” energy. He bopped over to the sound system plugin. There was no pretense, no yoga voice, nothing but genuine enthusiasm. What happened next endeared Buddy Macuha to me forever.
The music started, “Snow glows white on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen…”
I thought, “No. This is a joke. He’s going to turn this crap off any second now.”
Buddy said, “I love this song. It’s teaching me. Listen!” And he mimed belting the chorus into a microphone as Idina Menzel’s voice filled the room, “Let it go. Let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore.”
Buddy presented the theme of the practice this way. He encouraged us to let go, to push a little past where we felt comfortable and just practice. To try something that’s “too hard.”
“We’re an advanced class here,” Buddy explained, “You know how to keep yourself physically safe. Just don’t play it safe.”
If we felt like transitioning through a handstand, great. If we fell on our faces, great.
“Is there a pose you’re afraid of? Let’s do it! Time to let go of that fear,” he said.
The word fear landed like a brick in my stomach — I was afraid. My throat got heavy as my eyes started to burn with tears. My mind tightened. Maybe I shouldn’t be here. Maybe I have no business coming to an advanced class. Maybe I’m not good at yoga. Maybe I’m not a good yoga teacher. Maybe I’m a fraud.
I pictured myself standing, rolling up my mat and suffering the awkwardness of leaving class before it even started. “Better than staying and crying, for God’s sake,” I thought. I was already way out of my comfort zone, and Buddy (and the Frozen song) were telling me to go further.
I took a deep breath, ready to get up… and that’s when Buddy stood right next to me.
In a panic, I did the only other thing I could think of: I stayed. At least until he walked away.
“Take a deep breath,” he said, still right beside me. “And let.. it.. go.”
And I did.
Watery-eyed, I sang the opening AUṀ with abandon, letting my ragged voice ring out. Buddy smiled at me. I shakily smiled back.
We were up and moving within seconds, no time to hesitate. Buddy called out the poses in majorette cadence, snapping his fingers in a Z formation.
“Down Dog!” Snap snap.
“Chaturanga!” Snap snap.
“Up Dog!” Snap snap.
I smiled bigger in the privacy of Down Dog. “This guy is out there!” I thought. “There’s no way I could be the weirdest person in the room even if I tried.”
My mind-shackles loosened. I tried poses that made me nervous. I fell over and wanted to melt into the floor with embarrassment. I got up. I fell over again. I laughed. I left my self-consciousness in a sweaty puddle under my feet. I nailed some poses I didn’t think possible, trembling with effort and triumph. And I had an amazing, no-holds-barred, utterly joyous practice.
These lyrics from the second verse still ring in my memory:
It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
What are you afraid of?
Not knowing everything there is to know about yoga?
Getting called a fraud?
Being laughed at?
In the words of Disney’s Frozen, and the amazing Buddy Macuha: “Let it go.”
Push yourself. Find your edge by actually visiting it. Peek over the edge, even. Scary things are not so scary when you look at them in the light of your own strength.