When the Going Gets Tough

I took a yoga class yesterday that included a number of long holds of poses.  Standing poses, mind you, not restoratives.  My legs shook, my arms ached, and through it all our teacher asked us how we were responding to the challenge.  She knew very well how our bodies were reacting.  She was concerned with our thoughts, asking “Where does your mind tend to go when things get difficult?”  One of the things I love about yoga is that the lessons I learn on my mat are clearly mirrored in real life.  This class was just that kind of lesson.

I observed several different trains of thought during class: focus on the negative, worry about the future, and anger.  Focus on the negative meant I only noticed aches and pains, fatigue and the seemingly endless amount of time we were holding the pose.  Worry about the future added to my internal angst, as I thought about what pose might come next, and if it would be harder and if I would be able to keep up.  This served to fuel angry thoughts about my teacher and why she was torturing us in this way.  I think it’s safe to say these represent patterns we’d like to try to avoid when faced with challenges, because they only serve to bring us down.

Challenging situations create a lot of mental chatter, and if we don’t watch it, most of the time it’s counter-productive.  When facing difficulty, I find it helpful to start with a deep breath.  When I fully experience the sensations of air entering and leaving my body, there’s no room for thinking.  I am not regretting the past or worrying about the future, I’m grounded right here in the present.  Inner wisdom lives in this space, and I may find the perfect response to the challenge.  I can also begin to see ways the experience may allow me to grow, and the positive things that may come from having faced it.  None of this can happen if I’m busy fighting against reality by wishing it were different.  When I reconnected with my breath in class,  my experience changed.  I recognized the strength I was building, I heard the great music that was playing, and I felt grateful for the simple fact that I could go to a yoga class on a Sunday morning with a teacher who cared enough to make me learn this lesson.  Namaste!

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