Starting off the week with Monday night yoga has been exactly what the doctor ordered. Jump into work with both feet early Monday morning, go hard all day, shut off the computer, head out to the park, and begin the calm. By the time I’m heading out to yoga my mind is racing. Before I transition out of our first pose my soul is calm.
Yoga is outside at the park so there’s a wonderful feeling of safety as the small group is spread out well over 10 feet from each other. Getting additional time in the fresh air adds to the calming feeling. The downside is that the ground isn’t even close to flat. There are bumps, acorns, sticks, pine cones, pebbles, and ant hills. When doing yoga in the studio we’re always on perfectly level and consistent wood flooring. It is so much easier to balance with perfect conditions like that.
When we started tonight Carol reminded us to take a moment to let our feet get used to the uneven surfaces. Give our feet an opportunity to get used to the imperfections and then begin to find balance in the imbalance. It isn’t as simple as in the perfectly flat studio and everything is just a little different. Balance is set off slightly, angles feel a little awkward, and there’s more purposeful thought needed to get used to it. Uneven surfaces cause discomfort.
As one of my mentors once taught me, “when we are not comfortable we are growing.” So many moment of learning happen when the ground is slightly askew.
On level ground everything comes a little more natural due to muscle memory. In those trainings my brain can go a little too far into auto pilot. On uneven surfaces I have to focus a little more and be a little more intentional – I must be more present. By practicing balance in discomfort I become more present and focused.
On level ground my muscles strengthen and stretch in the same way each practice. On uneven surfaces I have to hold my weight slightly different each time. Muscles just outside of the normal spots get worked. My body stretches in ways it wouldn’t normally stretch. The morning after I often find myself a little more tight and tender thanks to working parts I’m not used to. By working in discomfort I become stronger and more adaptable.
On level ground I am used to where my body can typically go and I don’t go push beyond my normal as much as I should. On uneven surfaces I feel more confident to play. There’s not a “normal” so why not try pushing it a little? I don’t have any preconceived ideas of how far I could go so I am free to go past the limits my mind would typically remind me of. By working in discomfort I free my mind to experiment and play.
Whether in yoga or life there are always two paths to choose. The steady and level is great for practice, for building a base, for starting. If I don’t choose the uneven surfaces occasionally I’ll begin to plateau and stagnate. By purposefully and intentionally moving to an uneven surface I can learn, grow, experiment, and focus more than ever. The way of unevenness, off balance, and slightly askew is the path of growth. If I live on the flat I’ll grow, but if I live on the uneven path I’ll grow beyond the limits of the flat.