"Now, push your right leg on top of your shoulder."
Shoulder? Is that possible? Elbow maybe? Yeah. Definitely elbow.
"With your palms parallel at your sides, extend your left leg straight in front of you."
I'm still trying to keep this leg hoisted and now you want me to focus on the other leg, too?
"Good. Now with your palms parallel at your sides, use your core strength to hoist yourself off the ground."
The other day in yoga class, my teacher was leading us into one leg over shoulder pose — Eka Hasta Bhujasana. It was challenging for most of us. Some tried to give up, but she gave modifications and pushed us all through it.
I wanted to give up. I was awkward, not graceful, and my form was far from on point. But I painted a smile on my face and shut up that Negative Nancy voice in my head that was laughing at the instructor, telling me that I couldn't do it. I told myself that I could do it... that this was possible. I pictured my body effortlessly getting into the pose, a perfect replication of my teacher's example.
This is where you think I'm going to say that the skies opened up and I nailed the pose perfectly.
But I didn't do it.
Sometimes, even with the best attitude, we fail. It's in these moments we learn the most. Our friend Zig Ziglar said, "If you learn from defeat, you haven't really lost." During that yoga class, my lesson was in humbleness and finding comfort in the uncomfortable.
Off the mat, we face challenges every day. We have two options: 1.) ignore and avoid these challenges, focusing only on the things we are excellent at or 2.) face the challenges, accepting that we aren't the best at them and trying anyway; accepting our failure. The first option expands our ego, but the second option expands our world.
I'm an introvert. I like to coil, like a turtle in its shell. This is comfortable for me. It's easy. Hiding from the world is my best defense against obstacles. Yoga helps me come out of my shell; step out of my comfort zone. By practicing postures I'm not so great at, I learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations off the mat.
It would have been easier to give up on Eka Hasta Bhujasana; to coil into the comfort of child's pose. But life isn't spent in child's pose — a lesson I'm still learning.
Life throws us curve balls. Small ones, like slow traffic or when the waiter brings you the wrong food. And big ones, like down-spiraling relationships and cancer.
Nobody is inherently good at facing these things. They're challenging for everyone. But when we learn to breath, focus, smile and feel comfortable in those uncomfortable postures on our mat, it's easier to face those uncomfortable challenges off the mat without coiling into ourselves in defeat.
The next time you face a challenge, small or big, notice how you feel. Are you feeling like Eeyore? Mad at the world? Angry with the higher powers for dealing you this hand? That's a natural first reaction. Notice this reaction, feel it and let it pass. They are feelings, and those feelings are separate from the challenges that triggered them. They can pass.
Paint a smile on your face, breath and with a clear mind, allow your internal self to feel comfortable. All those things outside of ourselves are just things in the end. They are challenges, but they don't have to bring down our spirit.