Doing the hard things

In the early days of my yoga life I had a teacher who said this: the postures that are toughest for you now will be your favourite postures in the future. For paschimotanasana, she was right. For dancer’s pose, I’m still waiting. But her philosophy was right: working at hard things leads to satisfaction. Starting out low means you have more room to rise.

It’s the same reason that my spin class yesterday – which featured a new teacher who used revolutions per minute instead of just Miley Cyrus tunes to get us moving – was my best yet. My expectations plummeted when I saw the technical notes (really? yes.) on the whiteboard (really? yes.), but I worked harder than ever before in a spin class, and at the end I had the endorphins to match.

Another reason I believe in the rule of low start, long rise is my current favourite yoga teacher, whose classes I used to Literally Despise, and whose classes I now work my whole weekly schedule around. She’s tough. And it’s amazing.

I was in her class this past week and the theme was dedication – intentionally directing your energy towards something. On purpose. Repeatedly. And as an example she described her own practice: 6 days a week, 6-8am practice, one on one with her guru.

Wow. All I could think was: yes, she’s a yogi.

And the next moment: Am I?

Ten years after my first class in London Ontario (Moksha’s first studio actually, fresh paint smell still in the air) my yoga practice is many things. It’s body strengthening, mind balancing. It’s leaving the workday behind and going inward. It’s different amounts of pushing and releasing on different days. It’s the richest it’s been in the last five years, which is something I’m grateful for. Best of all, it’s still evolving.

Another teacher back in London called yoga a lifelong practice. I remember those early days like a new obsession: always pushing, always reaching the edge. Ten years on there is more wisdom in my practice. I cherish the years of warrior in my bones. Those warriors are always with me.

In business and careers, we usually hear this: Focus on your strengths, forget your weaknesses. In other words, don’t spend energy bringing an “improvement area” up to mediocre, when you could be bringing an area of strength up to exceptional.

But outside of business, and outside of career, there is something to be said for starting from the bottom and coming up to good enough. Sometimes we misjudge our strengths and weaknesses, and ignoring something because we perceive it as a weakness could mean missing out on limitless development, learning and joy. Nailing down one’s strengths and weaknesses is a lifelong practice too.

Most people accept blind spots in business and even in careers. But as humans, we want to be well rounded. We want to be balanced. And sometimes that means continuing to do hard things over and over again, whether or not they are a strength today. The media tells us that we’re obsessed with instant gratification, but in reality, we love the journey, even when the end goal is, simply, change. When we start low, we have more room to rise. And I look forward to the day – when I’m 40, 50 or maybe 70, when all of a sudden it dawns on me: that I love dancers pose.

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