I hate yoga. At least, that is what large swathes of my personality will tell you. It feels hard to hold poses my body is unaccustomed to. I would rather be swinging kettle bells, doing pushups, or riding my bike. I do all of those things, but spring is here and my body is craving more movement, so yesterday, I felt compelled to take a class. I was working in my office and remembered there was a 4:30 class within short biking distance. I kept working. At 4:15 something told me, “Go.” So I did. Why would I do that?
It is important sometimes to take on the challenges I say I hate. These sorts of challenges teach me things I just won’t learn otherwise. I avoided sitting practice for years, telling people it just wasn’t for me. Reality was, I hadn’t much tried. When I finally sat myself down on a cushion, I hated it. I squirmed, ached, shouted, and struggled for years. As a consequence, sitting, breathing and observing became one of my greatest teachers. Yoga is likely the same. I’ve taken classes infrequently over the years and have a brief home practice I do almost daily. I don’t push myself with that, doing instead what feels satisfying. That is often a good way to practice – doing what feels satisfying. Yet it also doesn’t take me past my comfort zone.
To go beyond my comfort zone, I sometimes need the challenge of a teacher.
Now, I want to say that while I find it important to do things my personality will tell you I hate, I’m not doing them to punish myself. I do them out of curiosity, and because I recognize that something in me does like the activity, or is at least stretched by it. My body welcomed much of yesterday’s class, even as it rebelled against some poses. Mostly, it was my mind that didn’t like it. That alone teaches me something. I felt better after the class, too, in a way I don’t get to at home. The push of the class, and the instruction by the teacher, helped.
I do things I say I hate because I learn that way. I don’t really hate these things, that is just emotional hyperbole. I would actually say I don’t hate anything. What my mind means when it throws that word out is a this: “I’m really not good at this activity. I feel ungraceful. I just can’t do it properly. It burns and feels uncomfortable. These sensations are not things that I like. I would rather stop now.” That litany is subtext to the constriction I feel before I find center once again, breathe, and try to soften. Breathe, and try to make the small adjustment. Breathe, and simply try to remain present to the moment. Yoga brings me to prayer and connection in a different way than usual. This helps me.
Curiosity, breath, and presence can take me through almost any challenge. Those three things ensure that I will learn something, often something very subtle and important. I follow the lead of my instincts that tell me “Go to class. Now” even when I would rather stay home and read a book. That inner voice is the voice of my teacher. It leads me to the teaching all around me. My life is better for it. My life is better, even when part of me complains again, “I hate this.” My clients and students often tell me the same thing.
How about you?
Speaking of clients and students, though I currently have a waiting list for my one-on-one work, there are many new course offerings on my calendar. Please check them out!