Two weeks ago, my Yoga instructor put the class through
a series of 3 1-minute very low chair poses without a
break. Within about 20 seconds, my legs began to shake
a little. Within another 10, my legs were burning,
and it only took about 15 more for me to give up,
tell myself it’d been a long day, and I didn’t need to try
that hard. Besides, I said to myself, “I get a high five
just for showing up!”
Most of the back row of the class must have reached the same
conclusion as I had because we all started to sit on our mats
and fidget with our feet like kindergartners. We all pretended
to massage some phantom sore spot on our ankles or feet to avoid
And then our Instructor brought everyone out of the pose, had
us do a forward bend and said,
“I know it hurts. But ask yourself what are you committed to?
What can you get behind? Tonight? In your life? Where do your
commitments lie? And what’s preventing you from committing?”
She walked around the room, told us to come back up and do a salutation.
“What makes you want to get out of this pose?” [my answer: it hurts!]
I was still telling myself that showing up, putting in some time,
and just trying was good enough. You know, all the positve-thinking-
great-self-esteem stuff you tell yourself.
And then she said something that has stayed with me the last
two weeks, sort of echoing in my mind and in my heart. She said:
“Commit to the pose. Commit to vitality. Commit to life.”
And I realized something. I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years.
And 7 years ago I pursued it seriously. Back in 2007 I
used to wake up early, walk to the St John’s decaying gym
and do yoga for an hour, meditate for half an hour, and then
go to work. And in that hour of doing yoga, often alone, I
would put myself into a warrior pose and hold it. For 3 minutes.
I would lunge deeper, longer, more determinedly. If the warrior
pose I was holding didn’t make sweat start to drip down my face,
then it wasn’t good enough.
The truth is, I’ve gone soft. Somewhere along the way, I started
telling myself I get a gold star for showing up. And there is some
truth in that. There was truth in that 10 years ago when I first
began. But 10 years in, I need to commit or find another fitness
routine. Because 10 years in I should be committed. I should push
myself and see what I haven’t yet discovered.
* * *
Last night I got through two minutes of the 3-minute
chair series. And instead of telling myself I can quit when it
hurts because “gold star for showing up!” I told myself, “Good
job for committing to the pose. You’ll master it in another month.”
There’s a lot of things out of our control. But there is one small
space inside of us that we do have control: we get to decide how
to respond to the good things and to things that hurt. I’m committing
to the pose because there’s room for me to grow. And that’s the
point of this journey, right? The point is to grow. To always be
becoming. Since when is stagnating in mediocrity actually a worthy
goal? (Have I not learned anything from Aristotle?!)
This 3-minute chair series has got me thinking, finally, about
the right things. Where are the areas in my life I’ve just
given up on? What have I walked away from because it started
to hurt? What is there in my life I still need to discover?
Which, I think, is the whole point of Yoga, right?
It’s not so much about the body as it is about the mind.
Image Source: Yoga Work Flow