It wasn’t the kind of fight where punches were thrown or vicious words were exchanged, it was an internal fight, a struggle against an outside voice that ultimately triggered my fight or flight mechanism.
At the recommendation of a close athlete friend of mine I began showing up at Bikram yoga a few months ago for a couple of reasons. One, it was a 3 minute drive from my apartment and two, it seemed like an interesting and untested method of recovery from a week of tough workouts. At first the idea of going to hot yoga seemed awful as the only memory I had of it was from a few years ago when Matt, Matt, Brisa, and I went to a class in Bend to work off our hangovers from the previous night of partying at my buddy Hix’s rehearsal dinner. With that memory in mind I hesitantly showed up to my first class here in Corvallis without a matt, and an 8 x 11′ inch hand towel…rookie move.
The first couple of weeks, attending 2-3 classes per week, were a struggle. I judged myself and my experience based on my lack of flexibility and my lack of balance. To top it off the first instructor I had was a technique nazi, constantly critiquing my form out loud, bringing unwanted, unsolicited advice into a place that I was paying to be at, which seemed backwards to me. I remember saying to myself “listen chick, I chose to be here, I don’t want your advice, I just want to stretch in peace, so please leave me alone” (I’m trying not to swear here). Then I would get annoyed with how she said terms like “savasana, japanese ham sandwich, bones to the skin, namaste, etc” Who does this chick think she is and what the hell was she talking about? I felt like I was a character in Eat, Pray, Love. It was all annoying. Those first several classes I was annoyed, and my fight or flight mechanism was severely tested. But then an interesting thing happened. I started to realize that not matter how bad I felt going into the class, or how bad I struggled during the class, I always walked out of there in a better place than where I was before. Being a good-natured addict, I was hooked.
Fast forward to yesterday and a few things have occurred since those first weeks when I go to class. I have begun to realize that all of the annoying little circumstances that percolate in my mind during a class are the same thing as the annoying little things that happen throughout any given day, whether it be at work, or Safeway, in traffic, or even walking around OSU’s campus. I have begun to realize that no matter what there are things in life around us that can annoy us and get in our way of progress, if we choose to let those things in. It’s a matter of what we choose to decide to do with those distractions. Do we let them get to us? Do we react? Or do we accept that those situations will always be a constant. Guess what, there will always be things in our world that are going to get to us, and annoy us, it’s a matter or how we choose to cope, do we fight or do we take flight.
Circling back to yesterday my anxiety started when I got annoyed when my instructor commented on my cobra pose. I reacted, and got pissed, my inner child came out and rejected the unsolicited advice Then everything about her started to bother me. It got so ridiculous that I was fighting her inside my head because I didn’t like the way she said the word “pose.” So let’s get this straight, I just paid her to spend 90 minutes of my time to fight everything she was saying, even the way she pronounced her words. Then, as I walked out of the class and past her, she made a comment to me that she had seen tremendous growth in my ability to stay focused and maintain poses and balance, that my strength and flexibility had seen great improvement. Once again, just like every single time before, I left that class feeling better than when I arrived. More importantly I was reminded that she was only trying to help, that it served as a practice to test my fight or flight mechanism, and ultimately to remove myself from self, be in the present, and not to let things get to you as they always seem to do when I’m not in a mindful state. It wasn’t a matter of who won the internal fight I had with her, it was a matter of how I reacted to the situation, and what I had learned from the experience. Respect the process Spence, it’s this mechanism that has brought you to where you are now, from being a lost closet alcoholic to a dude that is walking out of a yoga class thinking about how I can learn from, not only a 90 minute session of sweat and tears, but from every single situation in life.
I can’t wait to go back. In fact, I hope I have the same instructor. She tests me, whether she knows it or not, and I learn something about myself every single time.