“How do you stay so calm and focused?” a student asked as I headed out to the lobby of the studio after finishing yet another class.
I blushed through my already flushed cheeks. I had not felt calm or focused throughout the last ninety-minute session. I had felt itchy and anxious. I had felt unbalanced, as my mind swirled from topic to topic. At times, I had felt out of breath and out of energy. At others, I felt like I could give more and go further. It had been good, bad, ugly, and awesome, as is every class.
“It comes with time,” I replied.
“Every time I looked at you, you were looking straight in the mirror and barely blinking,” the student exclaimed, eyes wide. “I don’t know how you do that.”
I laughed. “Please know I still have a lot of work to do, but I’ve also done a lot of work. Someday someone is going to say the same to you and wonder at the how of your practice. And you will know it was just a ton of time on the mat in the hot room working it out and working it in.”
“It was great to practice with you,” the student said smiling and turned to head to the dressing rooms to dry off, change, and head back to their life outside of the studio.
It’s true my practice if far from perfect, but has grown in focus and concentration over the years. I believe teacher training was the turning point. As each class felt ridiculously hot and more and more challenging, and at times, hardly even doable in the first couple of weeks, I began to realize I was wasting energy by trying to be comfortable within my practice.
Comfortable is the last thing that comes to mind when you’ve embarked on a true yoga asana practice. Yet, we seek comfort at every breath. The yogis around us that look still, focused, and calm, can appear to have found comfort and we want what they have. We want to be able to move through the traditional hot Bikram Yoga class as if nothing is bothering us –as if we have mastered not only the heat and the postures, but the length and endurance required to make it through class. Every breath is controlled.
But the yogis that have been practicing for a while know the secret. To appear calm and focused they don’t seek comfort, but have relaxed into the fact that they will more than likely be in a state of discomfort as they move from posture to posture. They will experience pain at times. They will want to stop as the heart rate climbs. They will be challenged in a myriad of ways. But they continue on. They listen to the breath. And learn to thrive while being wildly uncomfortable.
As I lead class I recognize when a student is trying to find comfort. They wipe and swipe at the sweat as it trickles down their face, arms, and legs. They grab at the water bottle like a life preserver or even stuff ice cubes down their sports bra or tank top. They groan and lean into the drama, indicating to everyone around them that they are un-com-for-tab-le.
But then class ends. The students have made it through the discomfort and have succeeded in the goal of accomplishing the yoga class. They grin from ear to ear as they head out of the hot room. Their hips and shoulders move a little easier and they may even stand a little taller as they head out of the studio. They are mastering discomfort in the hot room and as they do, any discomfort they feel within their everyday life will be handled with a steady breath, a clear mind, and an open heart.
Everything is gained within the uncomfortable moments. You get to see what you are made of, what you have yet to work for, and how resilient you truly are. Do not seek comfort when you hit your mat. Be okay with being uncomfortable. The discomfort will open you up to the endless possibilities of everything You are and everything You can be.
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