Life can be stressful for a full-time-working, grad-school-moonlighting, Marie Kondo-style folding, suburb-commuting lady like myself.
The news, the politics, the traffic, the family, the endless yet futile pursuit of greatness and perfection and insta-glory—it all coalesces into me feeling like a tightly wound rubber band ball just bouncing from one problem to the next, absorbing the shock along the way until I roll down to a complete stop. This is why I need bath bombs. And bourbon. And yoga.
I mostly do the hot kind of yoga where everyone is sweating from their earlobes and you can smell who had donuts for breakfast. To most people, it sounds gross and crunchy and a bit like a skinny white girl archetype. But this isn’t something I do because it’s etched into a bedazzled wine glass or because the pants are comfortable (even though they really are). It’s something that’s been a part of who I am for over a decade, and it’s probably the only reason I’m not throwing things most days. It feels damn good to walk into a warm room after a stressful day. It gets me out of my head and into my body. It gives me perspective and clarity about just how little my “problems” actually are. And it’s actually taught me quite a few things about working in the creative industry. Allow me to list some of those things—but before I do, I’ll need everyone to take a deep breath in…..and sigh it out.
There. Feel better?
1. Muscle only gets you so far if you can’t even touch your toes.
That’s right. You won’t make it in this work without developing a little flexibility and balance. It’s just as important to work on your whole self as it is to push the big accomplishments along. Muscling through project after project without ever taking the time to daydream, doodle, indulge your hobbies, call your mom, learn new things or expand your thinking is kind of like lifting weights for months without stretching—it’s a recipe for hurt.
2. Your only goal is to stay in the room.
Ever been in an a 110 degree yoga studio for a hour? If you’re like most people, you’ll probably want to get the hell out in the first 10 minutes. But if you stay, your body starts to cool off. The sweat starts to work its magic and a calm feeling comes over you. You receive all the good stuff when you stay for it. This, my friends, is the value of presence and perseverance. When the ideas aren’t coming together, the timeline is slipping, the clock is running out and you want to give up,… stay. See what happens. Sometimes the good stuff is waiting for you on the other side of it.
3. There’s a subtle but important difference between pain and discomfort.
Pain is a sign from your body that something’s wrong. We should recognize and lean away from pain because it leads to injury and long-term damage. It’s not good for us, and if it’s left alone, it can become chronic. At work, pain might feel like an abusive co-worker, a fundamental dissonance between your values and the company’s practices or that disparaging feeling like you’ll never have the chance to learn or grow. Discomfort is a sign from your body that you’re working. We should lean into discomfort because it leads to growth and strength. It feels like a difficult puzzle, a huge project you’re not sure if you can manage, a big risk-taking leap. It requires energy and stamina and courage, but it rewards you tenfold. It’s that satisfying, lingering burn you feel the next day after you’ve worked your ass off. It’s worth it.
I know vinyasa life isn’t for everyone, but these lessons apply to any form of physical exercise and to life in general. So take some time to stretch today. Work on your balance. Stay in the room. Lean into discomfort. And if you’ve only got 10 minutes, here are a few free videos to get you started.