Life (and Yoga) by the Numbers

What do you try to get accomplished in the short span of 24 hours each day? Wake up at 5, gym at 5:30, so many miles on the treadmill at such and such pace, step on the scale and have a specific number flash at you as a reassurance that all is well in the world. We judge ourselves by the amount of money made, project deadlines met, number of pushups done. Chasing numbers: it’s like the NY Stock Exchange ticker rolling through the brain.

It wasn’t until my injury that I realized how closely I tied my own feeling of self-worth to my accomplishments. I had goals to meet, so an injury was most certainly not on the to do list for me. And yet there is was, staring me in the face every time I tried to put my left foot down, slowly eroding my feeling of self-worth, unraveling my idea of who I thought I was (how long can I take a break from running for and still consider my self a runner?). The foot pain and the existential crisis kept me up at night.

The epiphany came when I realized that I couldn’t care less about friends’ PR’s, their incomes, or whether or not they could do a handstand: unlike self-love, my love for them was unconditional. What I valued in others was kindness, compassion, generosity, empathy. They laughed with me, cried with me, listened to me complain about my injury, and I thought they were the best thing to ever happen to me, regardless of any other accomplishments they may or may not have.

It is a long journey for me. I try and catch myself when the negativity starts rearing its ugly head. I try to hang on to that warmth of having a student thank me at the end of class. My newly adjusted (or adjusting, I should say) sense of self-worth comes from knowing that maybe I helped someone breathe a little easier today, maybe I gave someone a reason to smile. These are the things that are truly valuable at the end of the day. Numbers only go so far…

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Do One Thing That Scares You

Sometimes we get comfortable doing certain things because guaranteed success is safe. It may be running the same 3 mile loop, cooking the same “signature dish”, practicing or even teaching the same few favorite sequences. But there is no growth in comfort. Growth comes from a unsteady voice, flushed cheeks, shaking muscles, and lots and lots of uncertainty.

For me, there have always been growing pains associated with inversions and arm balances. There is something inherently terrifying about having your face awfully close to the mat as the rest of your weight is pitched over it, being supported by trembling wrists and arms. “What if I fall?” But my answer to that is always “What if I fly?” despite having fallen my fair share. And as much as I love the freedom of flying, I love sharing it with others.

Most recently I had the privilege of teaching arm balance workshops at two wonderful studios in Yerevan, Armenia. And as excited as I was to share something that I love with new groups of students, there was also quite a bit of trepidation. What if the cues did not translate? What if the practice that I taught was not what they were were used to? What if the language barrier was too big of a hurdle to overcome? There were a lot of jitters as I watched the students unroll their mats.

Arm balance workshopWhen I asked who had never done an arm balance and was afraid, many hands went up. Realizing that everyone in the room was facing different fears made teaching easier. We were all in this together! And as we set an intention of trusting the process, I let my love of the practice guide my words. There was labored breathing, there were shaky muscles, and even a few baby crows and pigeons taking flight by the end of the two hours. We had all gone out on a limb and come out on the other side of a breakthrough.

It turned out that it was ok to be afraid.