Yoga Lesson: How You Exist In the Pose is Everything
While following along to a yoga video on YouTube recently, I stopped and wrote this down:
Take responsibility for your vibe here. The pose is one thing, but how you exist in the pose is EVERYTHING.
-Adriene Mishler, Yoga with Adriene.
How you exist in the pose is everything.
This to me means rather than going through the motions to get it done, be mindful. Consider all of your body parts. Consider your thoughts.
I do yoga every day. Earlier this week I hit 130 consecutive days of counting yoga, or workout, or on one day, slow breathing and binaural beats meditation when my headache was so bad that I even ignored my stubbornness and chose not to move my body. It was conscious, though.
As nice as it is to make it into a yoga pose, every attempt is progress. As with other activities in life, if we were perfect at it immediately, there’d be no progress to make, nothing to strive for and nothing to learn.
I’m pretty inflexible, but last week I was able to transition from a downward dog into a lunge without picking up my front foot from where it first landed and moving it to the correct place. That is, I was able to transition fully. It was a small but significant piece of progress.
Every time I can move further, it’s progress.
Some days I go through the motions. I’m stubborn and want to keep that streak going (that day of “slow breathing” probably shouldn’t even have counted) but my goal, when I remember about it, is to exist in the moment and let everything else go.
When I begin a yoga session, I put my phone on Do Not Disturb mode. I do the session in the morning before I get into anything else. Sometimes I feel like I should be doing something else, especially last month when I wanted to re-form a daily writing habit. After a couple of weeks, I rescheduled my writing goal, pushing it to May. (This is Day 6.)
The act is one thing but how you exist in the act is everything.
This applies to other areas of one’s life
I could think about writing, or I could write sub-standard pieces. Or, I could choose not to worry about it, sit down to a few minutes of writing, and see where it takes me.
I could spend a month or more ruminating on a topic, or I can sit down and write about it.
Since last summer I’ve been contemplating a series on one specific topic for my health website. I suspect that when it’s time to write it, I’ll know. I could have written a book about it by now, which is part of the worry in terms of the amount of information, and writing goal.
Just do it.
As I said two posts ago (in Medium) land, the trick is to START.
Several years ago I read something presented as a metaphor for beginning a project or starting a habit: If the idea of flossing a mouthful of teeth feels daunting to you, start with one tooth. You’ll immediately find that it’s hard not to floss your entire mouth because flossing just one tooth seems silly.
If you’re trying to form a habit, floss one tooth on day 1, two teeth on day 2, three teeth on day 3 and so forth. Soon you’ll have succeeded in forming that habit.
It’s similar to write for 10 minutes a day. Build on that.
Or, if your goal is pushups, or pullups, or burpees, start with one a day. 1–3 days later, do two pushups. A couple of days after that, do three. Keep going until you’ve reached your goal. Novice runners (or those who used to have the endurance but no longer do) follow a similar training plan that begins with more walking than running and ends with consistent running.
But don’t just type those words, floss those teeth, go on that run and do the poses to check these activities off your to-do list. Exist in those moments, because that’s where growth happens.
Growth happens when you stop caring whether the pose looks perfect (two days ago I tried to crush my Crow pose, but it crushed me) or whether the piece of writing is spectacular.
Yes, your pose should resemble what you’re trying to achieve (a downward dog is not a side plank), and yes, your writing should be readable. However, stop caring about perfection. There’s too much pressure on perfection, and the idea of perfection scares people off of trying in the first place. I’ve heard successful people say that progress happened when they began working smarter and stopped working harder.
It’s not that you don’t try, or don’t try hard; it’s that you remove the worry. When people stop fearing success or failure and trust themselves to do the work, great things happen.
I think that a little bit of self-judgment can be healthy. We can’t be apathetic. Some people do thrive when they’re hard on themselves. However, think about times of crisis: Successful crisis management is often about tapping into knowledge or muscle memory rather than overthinking. Sometimes thinking gets in the way of the doing and takes too much time. There are times when you need to let your body take over and disassociate from your thoughts. Not having to think is why training is so necessary. Some actions must become second nature.
In other words, acting on instinct.
Many people believe that thoughts become things, negative or positive and that if you think negative, that’s what will happen.
If you think, “I’ll never get into this pose,” guess what? You’re less likely to. If you focus on alignment, technique, sensation and staying healthy as you go along, you’re more likely to crush that crow or whatever.
For my yoga session a couple of days ago, I followed a video called “Crush Your Crow Flow”. As I said above, it crushed me. However, about 12 hours later I had an “ah ha” moment about my alignment. Now, I tried to implement that again yesterday morning and failed again, but I intend to keep trying until I’ve got it, based on the specifics that I suddenly understand. Perhaps I’ll go to a public class and have an instructor observe me and provide feedback from the outside perspective, rather than relying on how I think it looks.
Then, I’m going to lean into it and exist in it, like every other challenge in life.