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Meet Tension with Softness | Umami Girl 780
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My best self

Sometime in 2012, when I was even newer at yoga, my friend Daphne clued me in to the fact that it usually isn’t the style of yoga that makes or breaks your experience in a class — it’s the teacher.

It’s not very yogic of me to say so, but since then I’ve discovered quite a few teacher personalities that make me want to scratch my face off a little bit. There’s the surprisingly common and seemingly paradoxical Type A Yoga Teacher, including one who yells, “It’s supposed to hurt!” There’s the Cult Leader Yoga Teacher, who waits until you’re in a compromising physical position to chant, “Stayyyyy close to usssss.” And there’s the Yoga Teacher Still in a High School Clique, who pretends you’re invisible in the locker room if you’re not one of the popular kids.

It’s no wonder there are days when I walk into yoga feeling like a cranky bitch and emerge 90 minutes later feeling like my best self…is a cranky bitch.

Meet tension with softness

It’s all worth it, though, because in one small way or another, some teachers really do achieve the guru status they set out for. And once in a while you can take from one of them a little gem of wisdom (or gym-to-street fashion, or whatevs) that really changes your outlook. One such teacher rocked my fledgling practice last year when she said that as you encounter points of physical tension in a pose, you should try to “meet tension with softness.”

Taking yoga advice off the mat

I was psyched about that advice because it made me bendier, and because it made me start to feel like I could control even the tiniest of muscles telepathically.

But the real benefits started pouring in when I realized I could take those words off the mat and into the rest of my life. Or at least I’m sure they will start pouring in as soon as I stop sucking so freakin’ hard at meeting tension with softness in everyday life. And this, my friends, is why you are looking at my resolution for 2013 — not coincidentally accompanied by a picture of my kid’s grumpy face. 

Meet tension with softness. 

It’s not an easy one. But I’m going to try to get better at it. Like, now. If any of this rings a bell, feel free to join me.

A big, bright, happy New Year to you all from Umami Girl. See you again soon.

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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  1. Ok, the yoga part is great, but… I LOVE your daughters face and now everyday when I see my kids wake up, I take a deep breath and think of your wise words… Today I will meet tension with softness…. THANK YOU! Don’t forget about us when you come back to town! xo

  2. There’s also the yoga teacher with a scary German/Russian accent who makes you do sun salutations the entire time, or alternate nostril breathing the entire time.

    And the Pilates teacher who spends the whole class demonstrating what you’d be able to do if you were awesome like her.

  3. Hi Carolyn – I just made a comment & then read your newest umami girl
    Insight! It is quite fascinatinh how the same teacher can be both infuriating at one moment & perfectly wise at another … Just like ourselves & the 4 year olds around us…I love your resolution! Meet tension with softness… Yes… Perfect