When the going gets tough...

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JUNE 3, 2015

The tough get going, right? Yea me, not so much. When it comes to most things in my life, when the going gets too tough for my easily bruised Leo ego, I quit. More precisely, when I believe that I suck at something, I am no longer interested in doing it. "Psssh. I don't need this, this is stupid."  It doesn’t feel good to admit that, but it’s the truth.

But, I’m not a quitter - I don’t like to quit. So, I tend to only do things that I have a natural affinity for. That’s a pretty limiting way to live. And that’s the mode I was stuck in for years and years, until I met yoga. Ah yes, yoga. They say that your yoga practice holds up a mirror for how you live your life off your mat. It took me a long time to understand what that meant, but it has become one of the most helpful aspects of my practice.

I got into yoga purely for the physical side. I was not open to discovering anything spiritual about myself and wasn't up for anything "yogic" in nature. Yoga wasn't for me, remember? But the physical practice got me. I found myself looking around the room at people doing amazing things with their bodies - things I’d only seen in professional shows or on TV. I wanted to do those things!! My love for yoga was very ego-driven at first, like it is for a lot of people I think. I wanted to do fancy tricks and I wanted to be fit and strong, period.

A few months into my practice I became ready to learn how to handstand. Handstanding was the be-all, end-all of the first few years of my yoga journey. I WANTED TO HANDSTAND, DAMMIT. And the more I wanted it, the less it happened. The more pressure I put on myself, the more I would falter every time I tried. (Talk about missing the point of yoga and the journey!) But for some reason, I didn’t quit this.

I really sucked at the physical part of yoga (asana) at the beginning, but it's one of the only things I stuck with despite my suckery. (By the way, there is no such thing as sucking at yoga. Yoga is about connecting with all the parts of yourself - the physical practice is just a tiny piece. We are where we are, and that is more than good. There is no bad.) But I mean, I couldn’t touch my toes let alone stand on my hands! But the physical challenge sucked me in and I tried and tried, flailing my little legs around in the air hoping to catch the all elusive Adho Mukha Vrksasana.

My first teacher, Garth Hewitt, would watch me freak out on my mat, literally throw my hands up in the air and loud-whisper FUCK!! under my breath as I huffed and puffed and beat myself up for falling out of my handstand attempt, yet again. Over time he helped me connect the dots - this is not a quote but the gist of the whole thing was “hey - whoa - look how bent out of shape you get when something’s not going the way you want it to. How else does that show up in your life? What are you going to do about it? Start here and now.” Wow. A mirror, they say?

Big things started to shift when I got that. My 75 minutes on the mat every day became an opportunity to observe what was going on inside and how I related to myself and others when I wasn’t on the mat. I began to truly get to know myself. Alone with my thoughts, my body, my breath, my sweat and my feelings. All working together (or trying to). My practice has become so much more about the journey. It makes me smile to look back at that simple (but oh so big) piece of it and notice how I laugh now every time I fall instead of getting angry. I just giggle and get up and try again and fall again. And sometimes I put away the ego long enough to say “you know what, it’s not happening today and that’s cool. Tomorrow will be different.” And tomorrow always is.
The handstand came when I finally stopped giving it a deadline. I just worked on my yoga and took the pressure off. I hadn’t given up, but I’d given up on forcing it. Low and behold, there it was. It took 3 years, but it taught me dozens of lessons I wouldn't have learned if it had come easily.

Yoga sprinkles my life with bits of insight that I am otherwise too mentally busy to see. It reminds me to pay attention to how I act and react both inwardly and outwardly. It proves to me that I’m capable of doing anything I want to do if I just show up and work on it every day - and do not quit. It challenges me to listen to myself because all the answers are right there if I just pay attention. If we show up for ourselves every day, things happen. We evolve, we change, we grow, but we have to show up, whatever that looks like for each one of us.

With love,
Nat