Thursday, July 27, 2006

Humbling failures... and encouraging words

I’ve been taking hatha yoga this summer… and loving it. It is the perfect activity for me, as it requires you to focus and let go at the same time… relax and be strong at the same time… and best of all, integrate mind and body into the practice.

As with life, there seem to be good days and bad days in yoga.
Yesterday, was one of those days when you have a choice: get angry or get humble… or possibly both.

The teacher mixes things up a lot and we never quite know what to expect from one class to the next… nothing too crazy and maybe there is a system or a curriculum or something, but if there is, I haven’t been able to figure it out. Surrendering to that is part of the journey, I guess…

Here’s a quick snapshot from yesterday’s class:

We are in Downward Facing Dog position and Michael, our teacher, says, “Now we’re going to lower ourselves down onto our elbows and keep the hips up. Plank position.”

I struggle, but manage to get there.

Then he says, “OK… so… we’re just going to hang out here for a while.”

Hang out?

In plank position?

I can think of various positions I’d like to hang out in… and I guarantee you that none of them involve plank.

Maybe a position on a warm, sunny beach… holding a parasol drink… served by a dark-haired cabana boy. Oh yes… that would be nice…

I hear a far off voice say, “Breathe… Bringing the mind into the body…”

My mind was perfectly happy where it was, thank you very much… on the beach… with my cabana boy…

And I collapse into the mat.

I struggle to get back into plank, but it’s no good… My upper body refuses to cooperate and eventually the angelic sadist of a teacher wanders over and gently asks, “How are you doing?”

How humiliating.

I know he means well. And he’s only asking because usually I don’t struggle quite so much… collapsing repeatedly with big, ungraceful thuds on the mat.

I mutter, “I’m all right…” Not wanting to admit that I’m exhausted. Trying to remember that part of the practice of yoga involves letting go of judgment... Breathing...

After class I do what comes naturally. I analyze.

Hhhmmm…. Here’s a thought: maybe spending an hour and a half in the gym for cardio and weights isn’t what my body likes before yoga class.

It somehow has been conditioned to think that when I push the exit turn styles of the fitness centre, it is done its physical training for the day. Then I scurry off to yoga class where I expect it to “hang out” in plank position for a while. And my body stubbornly refuses to cooperate with me. Imagine that! (At least we know the body belongs to me... being stubborn and all...)

Maybe next week I'll change things up a bit… Maybe I’ll even take that day off from weight training completely… We’ll see…

On a happier note, my chiropractor has been full of positive reinforcement for me this week. He’s said, “You’re doing better than 90% of the people I see with a similar condition. Keep doing what you’re doing! This is great!”

The treatment area is open and there are two people there at any given time. Sometimes I'm oblivious to what's going on at the other table and other times, I catch snippets here and there. I've been there enough times to know that he's diplomatic and positive, but a very straight shooter, as well. If you need "a talking to", you get it. So... I know he's not just spewing hot air when he gives positive comments... which makes them all the more effective, of course.

Today he made me laugh when he said, “You’re like a major renovation project… and we’re ahead of schedule!”

I never really thought of my health in those terms before, but it does seem to fit rather well. Little does he know that there was quite a bit of “renovation” that happened before I ever stepped into his office in May of this year. Nevertheless, his words are powerful encouragement that help to keep me positive and motivated... despite my failure to be a human plank and my inability to keep my mind focussed in yoga class.


Turtle Guy said...

It's amazing how far we come, often before we notice the improvement. Words of encouragement are always good fuel for the soul.

backofpack said...

Sarah, it's good to hear the students viewpoint! I teach Pilates classes at the Y. My mentor was a hands on instructor - she'd come up to you in class, put her hands on you and move you into the correct position. It was always kind of intimidating, but still I appreciated it.

As an instructor, I have not achieved enough experience to leave my mat, keep the exercises and spiel going, and "lay on the hands" at the same time. I've always felt that I'm lacking because of this. But, I've heard other remarks similar to yours, and am beginning to realize that many people prefer not to be singled out - that it is too much for them. Maybe my way is okay after all? When I notice someone doing something incorrectly, I say something like "heads in neutral" or "relax those shoulders". It generally works. Okay - seems I've practically written a post here, I'll stop! But thanks for giving me something to think about!

robtherunner said...

Not much of a Yoga guy myself, imagine that, but thanks for the images. It is funny how other peoples momentary complications can give someone else, like myself, a good laugh. I would guess that you have a good sense of humor and will not mind me laughing "with you."

D said...

Being ahead of schedule is GREAT!

While I haven't done Yoga in awhile and don't profess to being a pro, I will suggest this: positive thoughts while you are struggling. Think: my arms are powerful - my body is powerful - I can do this - I am tough....etc. I do this during running, weights, etc and it always seems to help and get rid of some of the self doubt. I like backofpack's teaching style as opposed to being singled out!

angie's pink fuzzy said...

ahead of schedule, yay!!!!!

Dawn - Pink Chick said...

I would have drifted to the beach & cabana boy as well *grin*