As I’m walking into yoga class the other day, this big muscular bro-looking dude (let’s call him Frank) comes up to me and whispers “Hey man, what’s this like, you done yoga before?” I wasn’t sure if it was the fact I was the only other dude in the class, or if he felt a certain bro-bond as it was clear we both had an appreciation for lifting heavy things.
“Ha, funny you ask. This is my 70th class in the past 100 days. I only know that because I’m tracking it, I had this goal of doing 100 classes to see what would happen. I originally gave myself a year to get to 100, but it’s only been 3 months and it looks like I’ll be there in a month or so.”
“Hoy shit dude, that amazing.” He responds. “I’m here with my girlfriend, she wanted to show me how great it is, but it sounds like you’re into it?”
“Two words Frank, keep her. She knows what’s up.”
I continued “It’s going to suck at first, you’ll feel like a real idiot as I did. I still do sometimes and some of the poses will destroy you. Man, just wait for the deep squat, that one will get us tall dudes. But once you get to that final 2 minutes of shavasana and it’s full bliss-mode, breathe into it and enjoy it man. Oh, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow”.
My yoga bromance aside, what the hell has gotten into me with all this yoga?!
Let’s just say I’ve been slightly obsessed. I’ve now done over 75 classes in a little over 100 days. Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from the past 3 months immersed with the yogis and why I now think yoga kicks ass. This is all from the perspective of someone who likes to lift weights and was slightly anti-yoga prior to this journey.
1) Power of Commitment
When’s the last time you committed to something and actually stuck with it for more than a week? Adding a new habit is hard. Chances are, if you didn’t stick with it, you probably didn’t write it down or declare it to the world. These 2 simple factors will increase your odds at keeping your commitments. The key is having the positive reinforcement of the subconscious mind working for you behind the scenes. Write it down somewhere that you’re guaranteed to see every day. Or tell someone important that you see or talk with every day. For my yoga commitment, I did both. I wrote it down on a note card and kept it front and center on my desk. Each morning, I’d get a little reminder. That and I told Julie who was 100% supportive and came to yoga with me almost every day.
2) Knowing Thyself
The ancient Greeks nailed this one 1,000’s of years ago. Mastering yourself, or at the very least being more self-aware, is one the most powerful tools to have in your arsenal.
Spending quality time on the mat allows you to tune-out the monkey chatter in your head and tune-in to the infinite wisdom of the body.
Our bodies broadcast important signals all day long, but if we’re stuck in the constant chatter in our head, it’s almost impossible to hear those messages. On the mat is that rare opportunity to step away from our busy, frantic, distracted modern lifestyle and just be with ourselves in the moment. Use this precious time to simply be still, let go and flow. This practice of presence is powerful.
3) Power of a Partner
With my partner in crime Julie sharing the same passion for yoga, we were in this thing together. Some days I wasn’t feeling it, other days Julie wasn’t into it. But together, we thrived. We were able to hold each other to our commitment and show up every day.
If you look around in almost every part of the world, rarely does greatness happen alone.
Find that partner to not only share in the glory of achievement, but more importantly, to have someone there to get through the tough times.
4) Embracing the Beginner’s Attitude
Let’s be real, being a beginner at something sucks. It’s frustrating, you look like an idiot, and when it’s a physical activity, there’s a decent chance you can get hurt. But you know what? None of that really matters. For the first couple of weeks I was very self-conscious in a room full of mostly women who were super flexible. And there I was, this large, stiff, 195lb tin-man who could barely touch his toes. Not to mention I sweat like a pig, so you can only imagine what happens when you put me in a crowded 95 degree hot yoga flow class and I’m spraying sweat bullets everywhere.
Let’s just say I’m not blending in with the rest of the 105 lb. skinny yogis that surrounded me.
In this environment, it’s hard not to play the compare game when everyone sits in a deep squat with grace and I’m struggling to get my butt below my knees. I like to make the excuse it’s my damn ankles(1) or my long legs. But again, it doesn’t matter. Playing the comparison game is always a losing proposition. You are the only one that matters. Embrace that and acknowledge that you are exactly where you need to be. Embracing the beginners attitude means that you are hyper focused on where you are and what you need to do to improve.
With something like yoga, it’s the simple act of showing up every day.
The great thing about being a beginner is that the initial progress comes quickly. It only took me a few weeks of daily yoga and I noticed a significant improvement in my lower body flexibility.
5) Tap Into Flow
Flow states have been my obsession for the past few years after getting into surfing full-on and reading a few books on the topic. If you haven’t heard of flow states, check out this post here. To steal the words of Steven Kotler, the foremost expert on flow states, “flow is an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we both feel and perform our best. Anyone, anywhere, can experience a flow state, provided certain initial conditions are met.”
There are many triggers to get into flow, but one of the most common is the accuracy of the skill to challenge ratio. The concept goes something like this:
If something is too easy, you’ll get bored. If something is way above your skill level, you’ll get frustrated and give up. But if you find something that is just above your skill level, that’s the sweet spot that can propel you into to a flow state.
If you want to nerd out about this stuff, studies have shown that the degree of difficulty has to be about 4% greater than your ability.(2) In the context of yoga, that means taking a class that is slightly above my ability level where poses are just out of my range, but still attainable, this is where I find my flow.
I must say that after 100 days of yoga immersion, I feel different. I can’t explain exactly what that sensation is, I just know that I’m in a better place than I was 100 days ago. I feel a little more grounded. My body feels more supple. My mind is a little calmer.
Let’s just say I’m all aboard on the yoga train.
Oh, and by the way, I haven’t seen Frank again but I heard he’s been back to the studio. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing him again shortly. And I’ll make sure to report back on the status of our bromance.
Do you practice yoga? Are you not sure what to expect? Either way, I want to know about your experience. Drop me a line or come over to our facebook page and let’s chat.
Enjoy the rest of your day,
1) If you’re having trouble squatting deep, you most likely have limited range of motion in your ankles. Try propping your heels up on your rolled-up mat and see if that helps. If that does help you squat deeper, it’s safe to say you should work on getting your ankles more mobile. Separate post on this coming soon.