I recently did two things that I’ve never done before: a 4 week Adventure Boot Camp and a 2 ½ hour heated yoga session. Both taught me all sorts of things about myself, or reminded me of things that I’d forgotten.
It’s easy as a teacher to tell your students to not worry about what they look like or not to compare themselves to anyone else in the class. It’s not as easy to do it yourself when you are surrounded by a room full of the bendiest, stretchiest and toned bods you have ever seen in your entire life!
I had to keep reminding myself to go within – to tune everything else out and to just focus on what was going on on my own mat.
I had to listen to my body like never before, because it was a pretty advanced session with a number of asana that were out of my range of capability, and whilst I was sorely tempted to try some out, I knew that the risk of injury was there.
I remembered how scary it can be to go upside down for the first time! I have been doing headstands and shoulder stands for as long as I can remember, and so it’s easy to become complacent about how frightening it can be to someone who’s never done it before. We were doing handstands up against the wall, which I’m happy doing, but we were doing double-legged kick-ups (they had a fancy word for it which escapes me now) with our ankles bound. It takes a lot of strength and confidence, and whilst I do think that I may have had the physical ability, I totally lost my bottle after a few botched attempts that almost saw me face-planting. Feeling that wobble and the fear that came swiftly afterward was the best lesson I’ve had in a long time. I never push my students to do anything that they are nervous of doing – just not my style, and just not good teaching, and definitely not ‘good’ yoga – but it was a good reminder that the fear that some people do feel is very real and I am grateful that this will teach me to be even more empathetic than I try to be usually.
See above – I wrote ‘botched’ attempts. As I wrote it, I realised that I’m doing it again – self-criticism, which is one of the things I encourage my students to leave outside the door. So, at the time, I had to work with myself to not feel that I was failing, but just to observe that that’s how it was on that particular day. Another day it may be different, or not – and that’s fine. And writing it now, once again catching myself and saying ‘no, it wasn’t botched, it just was beyond your range of capabilities at that particular time. And that’s fine’.
Other things that were constantly there: letting go of competitiveness and comparison; being grateful for being injury-free; feeling revitalised by the excitement of doing something new!
The second new thing for me was attending Adventure Bootcamp, 3 mornings a week for 4 weeks. I wanted to boost my cardio fitness and had heard so many good things about ABC that I wanted to try it out. I typically get my cardio workout by walking in the mountains every second day or so, but recently a lot of my walking buddies have been tied up and I’m loathe to go into the mountains on my own (sad but true). So, with great trepidation, I arrived on Day 1, only to find out that I was the only new girl. Horror! Self-conscious, awkward, feeling extremely conspicuous, I had to work with all sorts of emotions that arose. Partnering up with a buddy brought up a reminder of being at school and being anxious that I would be the one that wouldn’t get picked! So I had to keep reminding myself that I am an almost-40 year old mum of two, not a gawky teenager, and that I was fine, with buddy or without.
The competitiveness thing really reared its ugly head at Bootcamp! I am inherently competitive (I used to be the one who would race the person on the next rowing machine in the gym when they had no idea that we were in competition. I used to even race cars up a steep hill if I was walking…I had it bad). Yoga has been a real tonic for me in this regard – letting go of all that, and coming to a place where you realise that it’s not about beating someone else or being ‘better’ than them, or winning. It’s about listening to yourself, knowing your own capabilities and limitations, and respecting and accepting that. And being motivated from within rather than by measuring yourself against someone else. Big lesson for me.
I had forgotten how quiet I tend to go when I’m in a new group. I am fortunate to have a group of extremely special friends who I feel very comfortable with, meaning that I don’t often catch myself second-guessing myself and what I’m saying or how I’m acting, knowing that I am accepted as I am, warts and all, but here I was being hyper-sensitive to how everyone looked at me, wondering whether I was fitting in okay, wondering if I was fit enough, friendly enough, over-friendly etc. So it was a big thing for me to keep that inner dialogue going, telling myself just to breeeeaaaathe and to be myself, and that that is always good enough. More than good enough – that’s number one prize – being true to yourself and finding the ‘authentic you’, as the lovely Misha at Yoga Life described it.
I also realised again how easy it is for us (myself included) to make up our minds about someone very swiftly, based on a first impression, and that very often what you think you see is rarely the full picture or story. Yes, those first few seconds are important and our intuition is a powerful thing, but there is often so much else that we aren’t aware of that may colour how a person is coming across. I was constantly reminded of my aunt’s beautiful quote: ‘Be kind, because everyone is going through something’ (I think it was actually Plato that originally said ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle’). That woman who isn’t overly chatty? She’s not rude, it turns out her sister has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, has a 2 year old daughter, and the prognosis doesn’t look good. The one who is hugely competitive and wants to win every single exercise and race? Turns out she’s deaf, huge fun, and feels a huge amount of pride and accomplishment at being ‘the best’ in a world where she’s always had a challenge that most of us wouldn’t even begin to understand. And so on.
And even though I was initially a bit daunted by how close-knit the group seemed, by week 2 I was instead looking forward to this lovely sense of community – no, more than that – sisterhood – that exists within the group. Women rock – we are all so unique and that’s the beauty of something like this: there is space for everyone to be themselves without feeling the need to conform.
We are all human. We are all works in progress. We are all learning things all the time, and we are all doing our best, given what we know and what is going on in our lives. It’s been a good lesson to be reminded of all these things. Oh, and I signed up for my second boot camp, and now I’m not the new girl anymore!