Last night in yoga, my instructor said, “We’re not going to focus on the poses most people love, we’re going to focus on the ones we’re not so good at, because you don’t get better by strengthening your strengths, you get better by strengthening your weaknesses.” Damn, I thought. Can’t we just do Triangle, Half-Moon and Extended Side Angle for the next hour? I can do those…
But many Seated Forward Folds, Revolved Triangles (my arch nemesis), Handstands and Wheel Poses later, I was covered in sweat and completely exhausted. Usually I find myself wanting to locate the nearest exit when faced with something I can’t do or am not good at. But this class was different. There was an enormous sense of satisfaction trying difficult poses again and again–and eventually landing some of them. And, even though there were many things I still couldn’t do (like standing up from Wheel Pose–I mean, how many mere mortals can really do that besides that over-eager Gumby girl who often parks her mat right next to me?), I must confess that I walked out of there feeling better, stronger and more accomplished than I had in other classes where I could do everything.
Hmmm, I wondered on my way home, could totally sucking at something be an opportunity for growth? Of course it is and intuitively, I already knew that. Like so many of us, I tend to focus on things I can do well versus those things where I feel self-conscious or likely to be judged. But overcoming the fear of not being able to do something well takes practice. Otherwise, I have learned that my comfort zone gets smaller and smaller. And you know what? Who really cares if you suck or not? I’d much rather stink at Wheel Pose or Double Pigeon than be sitting at home on my couch afraid to even try.
So after class, I went home and jotted down a list of reminders on how to focus on my weaknesses:
1. Each class, resolve to try at least one new move. Even if you fall flat on your face, at least you’ll know you weren’t scared. OK, maybe you were still scared, but there is a certain thrill or “high” in trying.
2. When given the option for a modified pose, don’t take it. See what happens. You may end up cursing your teacher out the whole time because it’s so damn hard, but afterward, you’ll likely settle into Savasana with a big ‘ol grin.
3. Move to the front of the class. It’s easy to want to hide in the back corner where you think no one can see you and you can take it easy, but being “on display” in front of your fellow yogis will force you to not wimp out.
4. When faced with Legs Up The Wall, Shoulder Stand or Headstand for inversions, you know which one to take.
5. Strike up a conversation with the eager Gumby girl and ask her to politely encourage you when you start to slack off. Not only is opening your heart to your neighbor the yogi thing to do, it’s a most excellent way to get yourself a new bestie who will spot you in Handstand.
6. Stop taking yourself so seriously. It’s just yoga after all!
Photo: lululemon, flickr