If you think about it, an hour each day isn’t that much. 60 minutes = 3600 seconds = not even a blick of an eye in the big geological timeframe. I have wasted so many hours surfing the Internet, watching a canned episode of Tatort, or even just thinking about why I have no time to do something. Why does it require so much effort to commit an hour a day to something that I enjoy? THAT is what I do not understand about myself.
I enjoy yoga. Admittedly, getting started is my biggest challenging. But once I begin, I can feel the benefits immediately as I ‘land’ on the mat. By the end of my hour-long practice, I ALWAYS feel better. Always! Never have I thought, “Oh, what a waste of my time. I wish I had done something else.” So, it seems logical that if I always receive pleasure from doing something, I should seek to repeat the experience. Isn’t that what life is about? Seeking joy, pleasure and happiness? But why can’t I commit to a practice that gives me pleasure?
I was introduced to yoga during my first year at the University of Virginia. Back then, yoga was not as readily available or fashionable as it has become over the decades. Dare I say, it was rather new-age-ish and very ‘alternative’. I found the Kundalini class from a flyer on a campus bulletin board, and because it was something I wasn’t familiar with, I decided to check it out. University life is all about checking out the world around us.
Two impressions fell on me immediately: First, when I entered the room the average age of the class dropped considerably; most of the other practitioners were much older than my teenaged self. Second, most of the other yogis were dressed as if they came from an Ashram where loose, flowing garments and lots of headscarves were the collective clothing. I felt so out of place, dressed in my shiny grey lycra running tights and a big oversized University t-shirt.
During that Kundalini class, we sat, meditated and tried to awaken the kundalini “snake” within the base of our spine. Admittedly, it was torture to me. I was one of those kids who was always moving; I just couldn’t sit still and I didn’t like to stay in one place very long (writing this sentence, I just realized that I’m still acting like a kid. hmm..). As I said, I struggled with the task of sitting and “awakening” my kundalini. I felt nothing because I wasn’t moving physically and the concept of ‘energy’ was completely foreign to me. I persevered and returned a few more times, struggling through each session. Was it interesting? Yes. Enjoyable? Not really. Eventually, I stopped going. My natural predilection for physical activities turned me towards gymnastics, karate, jogging, hiking, weight lifting, and dancing. Those were activities I could feel with my body, and besides, I didn’t own a scarf or hemp clothes back then. Was it Kevin Bacon in Footloose who said that teenagers are supposed to play loud music, act like idiots and make lots of mistakes? Yeah, I was a teenager then, and I made LOTS of mistakes.
Since then, I’ve had on-again, off-again affairs with diverse types of yoga in different cities, different countries, and different continents. You could say that I’ve gotten around and tried it all. Eventually, I discovered the type of yoga I enjoy the most: Ashtanga. Its linear structure fit my analytical self. The vinyasas, like a moving meditation, fed my desire to dance while the asanas root me, something I struggle with. But still I could not commit to a daily practice.
Unfortunately, for most of my life I’ve been strung along by the manic mantra of ‘No pain, no gain!” Honestly, I didn’t know any better because that was the message I heard all around me. I still do, but now I try to ignore it because I have learned that pain is a sign that something is wrong and not an invitation to push through. Sadly, by the time I realized this, a lot of damage had already been done.
When I was younger, I recovered from injuries and pain relatively quickly. I felt like a cat that could fall from five stories, gracefully land on its legs and saunter away as if it were nothing. Now, I can barely get out of bed without my knees popping, the ankles sticking or my hamstring muscles taught as violin strings. I guess these are my invoices due from my previous indulgences.
But there is another side to pain; it’s a very convincing motivator. Now pain propels me to the yoga mat, not pleasure. Pain is my repeat guest, reminding me to lubricate my joints, strengthen my muscles, and breathe. Pain has become my steadfast companion and has forced me to commit. Finally. But will it last?
What motivates you to commit?