Taking it to the Mat

Today’s Post

In which I struggle with being satisfied with myself in my yoga practice. I decided this year that I want to be a yoga teacher, but every once in a while I get frustrated.  I get caught up noticing what’s wrong with my practice.  I start to hear voices saying, “you can’t even touch your toes (or do arm balances, or do a headstand), what are you thinking?  Are you being anywhere close to realistic with this goal?”

This doesn’t happen very often; most of the time I am closer to content with where I am in that moment.  But what do you do when you come up against that wall?

Keep breathing and keep moving forward.

One of the most important things I am learning from yoga and meditation is to allow unpleasantness in my life without spinning it into something bigger than it is.  There will always be moments when insecurity starts to creep in.  The best I know how to do is to acknowledge it and move forward.  There is no point in pretending I’m above it.  I am not perfect, and sometimes my imperfections get me down.  The thing is, though, there’s no point in running with it either.  I’m trying to learn to ride the unpleasant moments just as I would the joyful ones.  This is a learning process, a growth process.  My natural tendency, the human tendency, is to latch on to and reinforce negative thoughts.  Instead of thinking, “Hmm, I can’t touch my toes yet, but I’m a little bit closer and it will only improve if I keep working, and it doesn’t really matter anyway because it feels good just to be stretching,” my tendency is to spin things.  Without mindfulness, my thinking goes something like this: “Man, I still can’t touch my toes.  I couldn’t even touch my toes when I was a kid.  If I couldn’t even do it then and I was stretching regularly, how can I ever expect to do it?  Who would take classes from a yoga teacher who can’t touch her toes?  Why am I doing this?  Why won’t somebody tell me if I’m good enough to teach?  When will I be good enough?  How will I know?”

Okay, okay.  I admit those thoughts still pop up occasionally.   The difference is that I keep going back to the yoga mat.  I am learning that those thoughts do not define me, and even if they visit every once in a while, I don’t have to reserve a place for them in my head.  Non-attachment is a beautiful thing.

Seth Godin acknowledges that all of us humans struggle with this kind of resistant thinking.  These thoughts stem from a part of the brain called the amygdala, or as Seth would call it, the lizard brain.  Just because my lizard brain is resisting the path that I’ve chosen doesn’t mean that I have to listen.  Through yoga and meditation I’m learning not to listen.
And that, more than anything else, is how I know I’m making the right choice.

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One thought on “Taking it to the Mat

  1. Julia,
    I finally have some Internet time tonight and have been reading back over your blog entries. I love this one in particular. It captures a lot of what I’m struggling with and reading about as well. I like your acknowledgment that insecurity will always creep in, and this practice is not about making yourself perfect but about learning to accept the moment for what it is, even if it is unpleasant.
    Just wanted you to know I’m reading and I hope you keep writing! I like the variety of your topics from tips to things you’re pondering, like this post. (Actually I just recommended your blog to someone today who is thinking about trying to live more eco-friendly at her site, where the water supply has been poisoned by detergents. I was telling her you make your own laundry detergent and thought it might be something she could try.) Anyway, I look forward to reading more!

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