Sunday, March 28, 2010

Learning Curve

My yoga teacher themed about challenges in class last week. At one point she said it's the tough situations in life that really teach us about ourselves. Of course, then I knew she planned to kick our tails with long holds and hard poses, but her statement got me thinking. We face challenges every day, from the mundane to the more intense. I think our reaction to them depends on our mindset that day, as well as the level of adversity. Some days, a very minor difficulty can seem insurmountable. Other times, we can combat any situation with super-human strength.

So is it the tough stuff that helps us learn about ourselves? In that class we held Warrior II for about 2 minutes. During that lengthy hold (2 minutes doesn't sound long, but try it for yourself if you doubt me!), my mind began several different patterns of thought: How long will we have to hold this? Am I a wimp if I straighten my leg for a breath? Who sings this song? Did the teacher forget that we're still holding this? I think my thigh may collapse any second. I may not get up my stairs later. And so on. I have learned to breathe through these thoughts, and try to re-focus and reframe them: No, I am not going to collapse on the floor, and I am certain this won't kill me. The longer the hold, the harder it gets to keep my breath even and my thoughts from doom and gloom. Just like real life stressors, eh? So from these challenges, I learn that my thoughts become anxious and focused on the negative. On the mat, a lengthy Warrior II pose teaches me to breathe through the sensation, that even when things get tough, the breath can keep me steady and strong. That I can take off the mat and into real life.

But, do the good times offer no lessons? I think we can learn from them, too. When things are easy, some people may check-out, become bored or sloppy. Or when they feel happiness, immediately wonder when the other shoe is going to drop. These are also important things to recognize about oneself. If I notice myself focusing more on the end of the fun than enjoying the moment (a tendency I used to have on vacation), I can bring myself back to the present. Yes, both bad times and good must come to an end, but I don't have to be resentful or angry about either one. I can observe and learn a lot about myself in any situation, and choose to stay mindful through good and bad.

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