Since my half marathon is over, I have made it back to the yoga studio more and more. And every time I’ve been, I’ve felt enlightened. Not that I’ve learned something new necessarily, but that I’ve been reminded of a fundamental piece of life that I forgot or took for granted. I’ve been mulling these thoughts in my brain for a while, and thought I’d share them here, in hopes they inspire or enlighten someone else.
My first insight came at one of my first classes back. For whatever reason, instead of rushing through trying to get from one pose to the next as quickly as possible, I took my time. I breathed slower, moved slower, and concentrated on the transition. I let my breathe guide me, let myself feel how each movement was different from the one before and the one after.
Yoga isn’t about hitting the pose. It’s about finding your breath and moving with your breath, your teacher, your guide. The transition from one pose to the next is just as important as the pose itself. Sometimes even more important, I would guess, as it teaches you acceptance of the in-between.
My self-talk was different. I found, after consciously choosing positive self-talk at the end of my half-marathon, I’m speaking to myself differently. I don’t feel I ever used overtly negative self-talk before, but it was never inherently positive. In this class, for the first time, I told myself “I am beautiful and strong.” Over and over, I repeated this mantra. Self-speak is so incredibly important, and even though I don’t feel I was ever berating myself, in yoga or in life, I never was fully uplifting myself either. I think it was mostly a “good job, you did it, now what’s next” type of self-talk. I’ve noticed a change in myself, a conscious effort to recognize the wild within, the strength within, the endurance, the ability of my own flesh and soul, and to celebrate that within myself.
A second insight happened yesterday right in the middle of class. It was time for ab work. Our instructor changed the music, brought the jams, told us our task: crunches, bicycle, break. Crunches, bicycle, break. And one more set, crunches, bicycle, done. Sounded easy enough. I got to it. I crunched, and crunched, and crunched. And she said nothing, leaving us crunching. It seemed like forever, why weren’t we moving on to bicycle yet?
And then, as we continued crunching, she spoke. “We are promised nothing,” she said. “Not next week, not tomorrow, not even tonight. All you have is this moment. And in this moment you are on your yoga mat. Are you giving this moment your all? If not, why not?”
And holy shit, did it light a fire within me. We talk all the time in yoga of living for the moment, giving full attention to each breath. But despite that, our minds continue to wander. And we practice bringing them back. For some reason, those words, in this moment you are on your yoga mat, were so simple and so powerful, I almost felt punched in the gut.
Partway through the second set of crunches, she asked the class, “Why aren’t you sitting all the way up?” And I thought, “Because I can’t, duh.” And then it hit me—I’m the only one saying I can’t. Why can’t I? No one else in the class is watching me, it’s only me telling me I can’t. My self-talk immediately shifted, and I remembered the fact that my body, the same one doing crunches, had completed a half marathon, had hiked the Rocky Mountains, had carried me through the wilderness on Voyageurs. If I could do all that, I could do these crunches. And I crunched harder (though I definitely could not completely sit up. I’m not that much of a baller). I told myself I was a bad ass, I ran 13.1 miles, I could do a few sit ups. Because I was a bad ass. And I repeated my mantra and I did it. That moment was all that mattered.
And sure, I’m sore as heck today. But the feeling of giving my everything to that moment, to every crunch I did, made it worth it. And every time I wince today, I remember that feeling of finishing, and remember that in this moment, my body is sore because of what I have accomplished.
That’s all well and good, but how does any of that translate into real life?
I’ll tell you my experience how. Today was a really tough day at work. So many projects are all happening at once, I feel as if I’ll never get my head above water. But hour after hour, I kept telling myself, be in this moment. Take whatever you are working on, and give it your all. There will always be more work to do, but you only get to do this project once. So do it to the best of your ability.
And I tried. It definitely didn’t work all the time, and there were a few hours when I was definitely stressed out to the max and that yogi wisdom was the last thing on my mind. But I always returned to that moment yesterday on the yoga mat, giving my all to those stupid crunches. And if I could do that, I could do whatever task was at hand.
Yoga has been such a rock in my life the past few years. As I’ve built a regular practice, I find it has begun to penetrate into my daily life. I can hear my instructor’s voice and wisdom as I go about my day, recognizing situations in life that I have encountered on the mat as well. One of my favorite things about yoga is that it is considered “practice.” I have a yoga practice. I am not a yoga expert; every time I get on my mat, it is to simply practice. Some days, practice goes better than others. But it’s okay, because there is no judgement, only the fact that I showed up for myself.
And isn’t life a bit like that? We never truly master is, but day in and day out, we practice. Some days are better than others, but all that matters is that we show up, we give our all, and we try. Every breath, every moment, is another chance to show up for yourself, and to practice being alive.