A few weeks ago I endured a miserable yoga class. I love yoga, so this was unusual. The teacher was great. It was my own state that ruined the class. I had decided to bump up my practice and challenge myself at the next level. This included some new skills that required a lot of strength. I hoped that I was up for a hand stand set up, but I just couldn’t get it right. My legs felt like concrete and wouldn’t budge more than a few inches off the ground. I moved on, exhausted and discouraged. It was obvious to me that I wasn’t strong enough yet.
After most yoga sessions, I feel confident and relaxed. This particular session left me frustrated and tense. I knew there was a lot of work ahead. I wondered how long it would take to gain the strength I needed. I showed up the next time ready to tackle the session with focus and an open mind, knowing that I probably would not be able to do all of the poses. I wanted to begin the process that would get me there eventually.
When we got to the part of the class I struggled with before, my legs felt like concrete again. I just couldn’t lift them. Maybe, I thought, I’m not going to be strong enough to learn this. That’s okay, I told myself. It’s not a contest. It’s enough to do what I can, and just be present wherever I am in the process. My teacher showed me a small adjustment that could help a lot, but told me that the adjustment I needed to make was really a mental one.
At home I worked hard on the small adjustment. It didn’t really help. I still couldn’t get my legs in the air. Then I remembered my teacher’s comment about the mental adjustment I needed to make, and it suddenly became clear. I decided to try it again, but this time I pictured my legs as feathers instead of concrete. They rose up like they weighed nothing. Not all the way, but hey, it was progress. Each time I tried, my legs felt lighter and I got them up a little higher. The mental adjustment had made all the difference. I hadn’t gained any physical strength at all. I just removed a limitation I had placed on myself. Once I eliminated the negative image of my heavy legs, they responded in kind by becoming light as air.
Often the changes we need to make in our lives to move forward are internal ones. We think it’s our lousy job, or that person, or our fat legs that are causing all our problems. My writing, or painting, isn’t going well because it’s too noisy, or the light is fading. The external things are real and substantive, but they are probably not going to change much. Even if they do, there will be other things. When I define something by its flaws, it comes crashing down. When I define it by what is good, it holds up pretty well. Like my handstand, which is coming along just fine.