Life Lessons from Yoga #4

Be mindful of when you’re doing something especially difficult to avoid something somewhat difficult.

Part of my August series on life philosophies learned from yoga.

It was a sweaty flow class on a Tuesday night.  It felt like the studio was at dewpoint temperature and that big fat water droplets were going to condense straight out of the air and somehow find the one unsaturated spot on my body to stick to.  The thought of that water insulating my body and raising my core temperature just one more degree was unbearable.  My legs were exhausted from a weekend of running and biking and it felt like this class was targeting all of the big muscle groups that were already shaking with our very first chair pose.

Once you’re in a class though, there is no way to defend your ego and explain to anyone that your legs were sore even before you came, that you’re not a weakling that likes to take the easy way out.  So you push yourself because it’s hard to shed your pride and you tell yourself that it’s good for you, that you need to learn to work through exhaustion.  You keep focused on how this will help you in your endurance training.

So it keeps coming: chair pose, crescent warrior, Warrior I, Warrior II, and then the dreaded open side-angle pose.  The instructor gives suggestions.  For those students who want to “take it one step further” he offers going in to a bind (which I do, left thigh still burning) and finally he gives the word.  For those of us more “advanced students”, we can go ahead and move in to bird of paradise.  I finally see a reprieve and launch myself, letting my bird fly.  Bird of paradise is a difficult balancing pose that isn’t especially easy on the back but it sounded like the best thing in the world to take the pressure off my leg.  As I’m taking off, the instructor yells out, “How many of you went in to bird of paradise just to avoid side angle?”  Busted!  There are ripples of laughter around the room.  Apparently I’m not the only one who does my long runs on Sunday and then finally feels ready for a flow class again on Tuesday night.

I’ve noticed this same thing when we are given the opportunity to go in to side crow from twisted side angle, or even given the opportunity to do headstand instead of crow.  These are poses I never would have thought in my wildest dreams when I began yoga that I would be doing as “cop-out” poses.  But you adjust to a new reality and sometimes you do these poses because you are seeking growth and finding your edge but sometimes you do them because you’re doing something really difficult to avoid the real problem, which is usually exhaustion.

Could this be said about moving across the country or world because you want a fresh start instead of apologizing or owning up to your mistakes?  What about finding happiness elsewhere because you can’t have the difficult conversation with your spouse?  Are you doing something in excess like drinking, prescription drugs, shopping, or eating because you don’t want to deal with the uncomfortable feeling that comes from facing your problems?  Sometimes situations like this arise for other reasons, but it helps to be honest with yourself about what they are and why you might be choosing the hard route..  You may find you are avoiding a trying situation by doing something even more difficult.


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