Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Benefits of Being Uncomfortable

Collin performed in his preschool's Spring Sing program.  We think he was strategically placed on the back row!

Exercise to me involves a good pair of running shoes and an open trail.  Running is what I enjoy.  It works for me.  Rarely do I deviate from my passion.  But yesterday I found myself perched on a yoga mat surrounded by a handful of girlfriends.  One friend won a semi-private yoga class and I was included on the invite list.  Yoga wasn't running, but I decided I'd treat the class as an "outing," a "social event" with friends.

I have sporadically attended yoga classes in the past, but it had been years (a decade even?) since my last class.  As soon as we hit the first Downward-Facing Dog, it became apparent that I was out of my element.  I think runners hold this faulty notion that somehow we possess superior athletic skills that equip us to exceed at any and all sports.  The thought is: If I can run for hours on end, I can surely master volleyball/tennis/bike riding/fencing/shot put/air hockey.  So, went my thinking with yoga.

As I struggled with the grueling plank poses and the endless vinyasas, I landed on a staggering conclusion: Yoga is hard, really hard.  My puny muscles aches and my wobbly tummy muscles screamed for mercy.  My back was drenched with sweat.  The makeup I had applied (yes, I put on makeup!) was now dripping down my cheeks.

The pinnacle of my pain came when we tackled the "Eagle."  The instructor explained:

-tuck your right leg over your left leg,
-now, pull the front foot behind the back leg,
-then wrap your right arm over your left arm,
-intertwine fingers,
-now bend,
-hold, and
-hop, quack, and count to 100 (just kidding on that one).

It was grueling.  Instead of an "Eagle," I looked more like a duck.  During this torturous exercise, the instructor threw out a tidbit, a life lessons of sorts.  She said, "Practice being uncomfortable.  When you find yourself in other uncomfortable situations throughout your life, remember how you got through this one."

During the final few minutes of class, we collapsed into the corpse pose (decidedly my favorite part of the class).  I closed my eyes and lay completed still, arms and legs outstretched and relaxed.  I ruminated on the instructor's words, "Practice being uncomfortable.  Remember how you got through the discomfort."

I thought about the uncomfortable situations in my life.  At first, little plights flashed through my mind: dealing with a whiney child, an annoying neighbor, a frustrating project.  But then I pondered bigger situations. I thought about my Asperger's son.  I reflected back on all the "uncomfortable" moments from his past and the present challenges, all the "practice" I've had at being uncomfortable.  I ruminated on all the ways I've had to push him out of his comfort zone, and therefore I've been pushed out of mine.  Memories flooded my mind; times where we made it through each and every challenge unscathed, and perhaps a little better.

In this day and age, discomfort is treated as a bad word.  We do everything in our power to ensure comfort.  We demand luxury, convenience, happiness.  We expect things to go smoothly and quickly.  (And by we, I'm including myself!)  But the thing is, life is not always comfortable.  A life lived will include discomfort.  It's how we learn to treat the discomfort that makes the difference.

Yoga class was uncomfortable for me, but that's OK.

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