Saturday, January 11, 2014

Using Discomfort for Change: how the worst yoga class changed my life

To change our limited personal perspectives, we must make ourselves uncomfortable.  Taking away what is comfortable forces us to think and experience outside of our current reality.  When we can see our patterns through the clarity of discomfort, we experience a less distorted view of the world

Yoga class was hot. Really hot or at least it would appear that way if you were to see the streams of sweat rolling off of my arms, face, and legs in downward dog. Despite the 105 F temperature I kept thinking this is too easy. I'm not being challenged physically. I can barely hold the postures I'm slipping around on my own sweat so bad.  In the past few months as I've renewed my passion for yoga, I've come to realize that Ashtanga, or Power Yoga, best suits my yoga needs and challenges me most of the time and I'd found a few classes in Bellingham that fit this need to be challenged.
The class I happened to be in was a Power Fusion class I was dropping into during my visit to Oahu to run the HURT 100.  At just 1 hour long, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't working hard enough.  I'd driven from almost the North Shore to Kailua (a slow, tedious 1+ hour drive) and this sweaty class was all I was getting?  The class is a waste of time I thought again before remembering to continue to breathe in and out. In and out.  I was so uncomfortable with feelings of not doing enough.  Despite my growing frustration with the class, another thought popped in my head it's about being present not about how hard the class is. With the thought, the ridiculousness of my mindset hit me.  A picture of my personality became clear to myself as I became aware of the way I usually interact in the world and how short sighted my judgements were on the class, myself, and even the world.

I saw myself in that moment as a very driven person who only considered something worthwhile if it was hard, challenging, and difficult to attain.  I avoided those things that I felt were too easy and instead always struggled to find the next big challenge, whether it be in my athletic career, my work, and even emotionally.  As this realization came to me, I was enlightened by the truth that my desire to make life more difficult than it needs to be was not necessary.  It would not bring me any more happiness than other possible paths. It was a way that I had chosen to interact with the world, but it was not the only choice I could make nor was it the best choice all the time.

Where some people would write off that second run of the day as making their schedule too hectic, I'd fit it in or guilt myself the rest of the day for not fitting it in. Where one person could feel accomplished by practicing yoga 1-2x a week, I couldn't feel accomplished unless I practiced everyday for at least an hour.  If whatever I was doing broke me down physically, I'd consider it a slamming success.  If a race I was directing was going smoothly a month before race day I might add in another distance or organize an expo.  I was always seeking improvement and in the process I had lost a precious thing: presence. I'd sacrificed a quiet mind for chaos and achievement mistakenly believing it was these things that determined my self worth.  These thoughts allowed me to give into my practice that night and receive the benefits of mindfulness.

As I lay in Shavasana (Corpse Pose), the final and most important pose in any yoga class because it is the restful meditation at the end, I was struck by how insightful and life changing this one sweaty, easy, in one word crappy class was and with that thought I relaxed my entire body into the floor returning to that elusive moment where I was completely present with my breath, my body, and all the other people in the room.

It is simply presence that brings joy into our lives: really listening to our child when they tell us about their day instead of multitasking while the words go in one ear and out the other. It's kissing our lover without thoughts of a work meeting we still need to schedule.  Happiness is breathing into our body as we run instead of telling ourselves we're not training correctly or that we should be working not running.  Having complete presence in each moment is the most precious gift any person can give someone else or give to them self.

1 comment:

  1. "The power of now" by Eckhart Tolle, discusses the very subject of being in the moment. I'm not into "new age" but this was an interesting book. Check it out.


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