I learned something today. Something big. I learned that it’s really important to get out of your comfort zone. Because there may be all kinds of awesome going on out there that you can’t even imagine is possible. Here’s what I’m talking about. I normally practice yoga by myself (if you’re my Facebook friend or my real life friend or the studio’s Facebook friend you probably already know this). I practice by myself for a number of reasons: schedule flexibility (day, time, practice duration) and so I can customize the practice to best benefit my cranky back. I think I’m a pretty good teacher and I feel like I get a high quality practice this way.
But I recently signed up for the 40 Day Challenge so that I could dedicate more than just my average 15-20 minutes to my practice each day. The Challenge started Sunday. The goal is to attend 30 classes in 40 days. Sunday I didn’t have time to attend a class. Monday I only got to practice on my own. Tuesday I reluctantly skipped my personal practice and attended Tyagaraja’s class.
I say "reluctantly" because I didn't realize how attached I am to my personal practice. I like to practice from about 8:00 to 8:30 or 8:45 a.m. when I can, then I go to my home office to start working by 9:30. To attend Tyagaraja's class I had to stay at the studio until 9:30, which meant I wouldn't get home until 10:00, which in my over-scheduled mind meant it was was going to throw off my whole day, but I did it anyway so that I could start counting classes for the Challenge.
An important part of Tyagaraja's classes is pranayama, breathing practice. He is very skilled at teaching pranayama, but the practice was a big challenge for me because I was congested. His asana teaching style, while gentle, is different from mine. I got to try some new poses I don't normally do. I got through most of the practice with a slightly frustrated mood, which had nothing to do with his teaching and everything to do with my (unhealthy) attachment to my personal practice.
And then at the end of practice he offered a beautiful chant that totally transformed my mood and my day. I can still hear the sound of his chant in my head at this moment. Though I didn't realize it at time, this was my first piece of evidence about why it's important to get out of one's comfort zone.
Making it to a class this morning, Wednesday, was much easier since I already started breaking down my attachment yesterday. I attended Cony's Gentle class. She started with a pose that did not agree with my body: a gentle supported chest opener. My back was really tight, but I tried the pose anyway. After a few breaths I realized the pose was providing me more tension than relaxation, so I decided to skip it and moved to laying on my back.
Cony said something about how we should listen to our bodies first and her second. This really resonated for me and helped me feel comfortable modifying poses to fit my body in her class. (Ooh, that is a good topic for a future post. More on that in the near future.)
She guided us through an amazing practice that I was really able to get into. We pretty much never got up off the floor and we did interesting variations of poses that I'd never seen before. I think I spent the second half of class with my eyes closed, I was so "inside" my body. And then to my great surprise, my back pain was gone at the end of class.
I think my "self" was a little bit shocked that any teacher could lead a practice that would alleviate my back pain as effectively as my own personal practice. And now, looking back , I cannot believe how much I got out of this one class. I learned to trust. I learned to let go. I learned to receive. And so Cony's class was my second piece of evidence about the importance of getting out of one's comfort zone.
All these years I've been hanging out in my comfort zone of my own personal practice, rarely setting foot in another teacher's class. I practice between 8:00 and 9:00. I do the same routine of poses that I know will fix my back pain, then I go home to start my work. I've unintentionally built up an attachment to this routine.
And now, after just two days of getting out of my comfort zone and attending classes led by someone other than myself, I feel AH-MAZ-ING. I've had the best day today. I ran errands. I found little pockets of extreme productivity. I got a lot done without feeling a moment of stress. It's kind of unbelievable. To me, at least.
So here's to the 40 Day Challenge. Here's to getting out of my comfort zone. Here's to new experiences.
How about you? I challenge you to examine (or just think about in the back of your head when you have a spare fraction of a second) what are your routines? Where are your comfort zones? What could you do to break out of them and try something new? I bet if you do, you're going to find something awesome.
P.S. You can still join the 40 Day Challenge if you’d like. The goal is to attend 30 classes so that you can experience the amazing benefits of a very consistent yoga practice. But really, if the Challenge gets you to practice even just a little more than you currently do (or don’t), you’re better off than you are today. You can visit our 40 Day Challenge page for more details.