I think the old adage is true: The hardest part of the journey is taking the first step. How does that apply to yoga? Well, I always find the hardest part about going to yoga class isn’t the 100 vinyasas. It’s not the 90-plus degree heat that makes you sweat in places you didn’t know you had. It’s not the squeezing into last year’s workout gear that you know is too small, but is the only thing that’s clean. The hardest part about going to yoga class is the actual going.
You know what I mean — the mental sun salutation, warm-up, shake-down, or whatever you want to call it, perhaps even the night before while reserving your class spot online. Before stepping into the studio, we make the choice to do yoga.
For me, that is the hardest part. The mental gear-up to go to class, go to work, go take that run, make that phone call you’ve been dreading, switch to that heavier dumbbell, commit to that new house, quit your job, choosing kale over fried chicken. It’s all hard.
While the physical tasks involved might be easy — putting on workout gear, dialing the phone, driving your car — the mental preparation can be quite a challenge. There’s a reason for this.
Our basic instinct, going back to the first bipedal humans, is to think through problems before we attempt them. This evolutionary trait is well covered in several sources, including Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution by Neil deGrasse Tyson and it’s what, for the most part, keeps us living, thriving, and at the top of the food chain. Most decisions and problems we seemingly make or react to automatically, such as grabbing a potholder as you open the oven or looking behind you before you back up your car. However, all of these things are problems we think through, whether we realize it or not.
Along with these “automatic” thought processes, humans developed the ability to think on more difficult planes. We began to think about things far in the future instead of just the here and now. We began to use imagination and create fanciful stories, and with those thoughts we began to develop new thought processes such as invention, exploration, and adventure.
These are all amazing and wonderful things, but along with the ability to think, comes the ability to overthink. This is what happens to our minds when we decide we’re too tired to go to the gym, we have food in the fridge but don’t want to cook, or when we cross our fingers that the gas light that just came on can get us at least 10 more miles.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a day off from the gym. There’s nothing wrong with ordering the occasional pizza. There’s nothing wrong (though the state of VA would disagree) with waiting a day or two past the expiration date to get your car inspected. But when these things become “wrong” are when they become habit, and they often become habit due to overthinking.
I’ve been victim of this. Often, especially in the early morning, it feels as thought there’s a political debate going on in my brain with both sides screaming at each other and no moderator is in sight.
Side A: “Go back to sleep! You like to sleep, you need to sleep. You feel SOOOO tired, go back to bed!”
Side B: “Get your lazy butt to the studio! It feels soooooo good when you’re done! Think about last time, last time was awesome! Don’t you want to feel like that again!?”
Side A: “Don’t listen to that goody-goody! You know you want to sleep. You know you need more sleep. You’ll go to afternoon class, just go back to bed.”
Side B: “You know you won’t go to afternoon class! Don’t lie! Up! Up! UP! Grab life by the horns! Just get up, you’ll be glad you did!”
Any of that sound familiar? I often think I have a conversation with myself like that at least once a day about something or other. But as humans, just as we have the ability to talk ourselves into something, we have just as much of an ability to talk ourselves out of the same things.
Marilyn Monroe was famously quoted as saying: “It’s much more fun to dream of being a famous actress than it is to actually be one.” Yoga is the exact opposite.
I’ve never been sorry I chose to go to yoga class.
I’ve been sorry for skipping, just as I’ve been sorry for eating that fast-food burger.
You can never be sorry for trying, because you don’t need to apologize for trying something new, attempting to be healthy, or even for giving yourself a break. Julia Child was famous for spouting off her line: “Never apologize! It is what it is, and by thunder, it’s probably better than you think!” While her line applied to cooking, I think it can apply to most things in life. Every attempt to better yourself, even if it is half-hearted, is an attempt you should not apologize for, especially not to yourself.
Even when I’ve had to drag myself to the studio looking like death warmed over in clothes that are too tight, bed-head hair, and bags like weights under my eyes, I’ve never been sorry I went.
As for the days I’m inevitably going to let side A win and roll over and go back to bed? Well, I’m sorry in advance for those, but I’ll learn to forgive myself. Now excuse me while I finish my fried chicken.
— Julie Waineo