14 July, 2013

Setting reasonable expectations

Today was Ashtanga Yoga with Sandy Harrington at Passion Of Movement.

I was not really ready for this class today. I know there's a saying "You are ready now!" but sometimes we just aren't ready, and we need to use our intelligence to know that. I had a very full day yesterday. There was snorkeling at 7am. There was snorkeling at 1pm. There was snorkeling at 5pm. There was yoga. My muscles were completely fatigued. I was so utterly wiped out that I came home from a nice dinner out, and literally passed out on the bed with the guitar across my chest. I had grand plans of doing some recording last night. I had plans of doing some writing last night. But my body had only one plan, and that was sleep. By 8:45pm, I was down for the count.

Unfortunately for me, sleep was not solid. I woke repeatedly, and developed a headache that smelled a lot like dehydration. I had clearly not drank enough water during the day. One glass of wine with dinner seemed to have had the same impact on me as a night of drinking. Even taking four ibuprofen at 5am didn't seem to help. So, one would wonder, then, why I dragged myself out of bed at 7am so that I could be back in the water snorkeling by 8am. Because that's what I did. It was as if I was compelled to do it. Sometimes I get this way. And, even though every muscle in my body was fatigued when snorkeling this morning, I opted to go to the Ashtanga class today, knowing that it could be a bad idea.

This was a very traditional class. The poses were called out, one after another, with five breaths in each, and no pause between. The teacher did not stand in front of the class. She walked around and made subtle adjustments on the students. There were four of us. If I am not mistaken, two of them were yoga teachers. One of those two, Nathaniel, was built like a gymnast and was clearly a very experienced Ashtanga practitioner. I was intimidated.

The first part of the class was within my abilities, although the 5 Sun B sequences had me pouring sweat off my body. Things continued along passably, until we got to some of the standing balance poses that require flexibility I do not have. It continued from there, with about half of the floor poses leaving me feeling helpless. All the while, Nathaniel next to me, who was the only person I could see, was totally rocking it. I did my best not to look over there, but I knew what was happening over there, and I just felt so incredibly inadequate. I started having thoughts like "The teacher probably wonders why I even came to this class... She's probably angry at me for not trying harder..." I had absolutely zero gas in the tank. I recall, during yesterday's class, I felt like it was effortless, and I was so strong. And today was the diametric opposite of that experience.

There are so many lessons I could learn from this. I hesitate to enumerate them here because I suspect it will feel like I am berating myself, which doesn't really solve anything either. Instead of listing off lessons, I guess the better thing would be to ask myself some questions:

Why do I want to push myself so hard? Is it because I don't want to have down time? Am I compensating for "being alone" by keeping myself 100% busy?

Why am I being hard on myself, instead of being patient and gentle, recognizing that I was pushing up against physical limitations? I don't even have any hypotheses for that one.

Back in high school, on the track team, we often had to run more than one race. Everyone understood that you would likely not run your best time in that second race. This was intuitive, because you've spent your energy. It might be useful for me to apply that lenient analogy in situations I experience in my life now. I can choose to give myself proper rest. Or I can choose not to give myself proper rest, because of the desire to do more. But, making the latter choice, I can choose to recognize that my performance will be impacted, and that I can set reasonable expectations for myself.

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