Riding the Struggle Bus

My theme for the week is “struggle.” I struggled through last week when life kept hitting me again and again and again. But I survived. Are things wonderful now? No. I still have messes to deal with, emotions to process, and disappointment to accept. But I made it through and this is a new week.

I don’t do well when things fall apart, especially not when everything falls apart at the same time. My defense mechanism is to distract myself, listen to music, busy myself with work, and shut off from the rest of the world. I attempted to resist that urge last week but didn’t end up succeeding. I reverted back to having headphones in 75% of the day, I dove into the tasks at hand, and I only saw my family. I kept myself busy and tried to stop my brain from thinking about all of the other worries. Of course that didn’t work though. While being with family was actually exactly what I needed, I still couldn’t stop the stress and ended up with hives. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Of course when things are difficult, we do what we can to survive. While my coping mechanisms aren’t perfect or always healthy, at least they worked temporarily. But as the deep thinker I am, the yogi who’s constantly trying to understand this crazy thing called life, I had to find some lesson to take away.

I thought about my yoga practice. There are poses that I hate. I know that’s not very yogic to say, but they are difficult and hard and 99% of the time I can’t do them. Except unlike in life, I don’t shut down when those poses come up. I try and do the best I can. As you can see from the photo of this post, I often end up in a heap on the floor during arm balances. I’d like to say the photo is staged, but it is all too real. But if you look closely, you can see the hint of a smile. I laugh when I fall. If I get frustrated, it’s only for an instant. I pick myself back up and try, try again.

While I really don’t like arm balances, intellectually I know that I will never improve if I avoid them forever. Sure, I can isolate and work on actions needed. But surprise, those are hard too. And deep down I know that I will never learn the pose if I don’t practice it. Even if that means falling.

As a student, I no longer try to avoid the poses I struggle with. I don’t try to conquer them all at once, but I try to practice consistently, properly warm up my body, and give them a go. I will never be able to reach the other side of the pose if I don’t try and fail. And fail a lot.

As a teacher I realized I wasn’t doing my students any favors by avoiding the poses that I hate, or the ones I know that they hate. I have one student with a great sense of humor that has jokingly asked if I enjoy torturing them. But I don’t see it as torture. I see it as giving them the space to try, in a safe environment. I give them guidance, drills, and props to use to help them through. If you fall, it’s not the end of the world. At least you had the courage to try.

Learn from your mistakes, from your struggles. Do what you need to get through the tough part. But know that it will happen again. In yoga, we can’t avoid the poses we hate. In life, we can’t avoid unfortunate, difficult situations. Trust me, I’ve tried. They will find you anyways. Do the best you can to survive. Dive into the struggle, knowing that at least you’re giving it your best shot. That’s all we can in yoga, and in life.

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