Many of friends will admit they used to think of me as a brain-on-a-stick. And I certainly used to be one of those folks who acted as if my body was mostly just a device to carrying my brain around allowing it to get on with the serious business of thinking.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been making concerted efforts to pay more attention to the stick, treat it better, use it more actively and increase its flexibility. Yoga, swimming, cycling, strength training… that kind of thing.
Among the benefits is that the quality of my thinking has improved quite a bit as I start to get more of idea of what embodied intelligence is.
And it’s also been really useful to me as someone who sometimes gets to lead groups and train people. Because I am in a regular practice of learning to do things in other people’s classes – often doing stuff I spent a large part of my life avoiding and generally feeling very unconfident about.
Although I’m pretty motivated and clear about the benefits, I still often find myself in things like yoga feeling reluctant. When I’m trying find that extra bit of stretch in the hams, part of me wants to give up. And then I might find myself thinking: “This is too hard. This is fine for people who are flexible but what’s the point for someone like me? Maybe I’ll just go through the motions. Maybe I should stop doing this class.” I can really feel the inner resistance, the vestiges of fear and shame inculcated by years of the ludicrously mistitled “physical education” i.e. ritual humiliation inflicted on me in school.
Mostly I catch this happening and move my focus. Basically that involves letting go of comparisons and aiming to operate just at the edge of, and not outside, my comfort zone. Finding the position that is actually a stretch, not based on some mental model of how I am or how the world is, but what I’m actually feeling in my body.
So for me, among the many benefits of yoga is the countless opportunities it gives me to encounter my own reluctance. I hope this gives me more perspective when training/facilitating others and sensing their reluctance is kicking in.
And it gives me this idea of being willing to play with reluctance. That’s partly about accepting that doing challenging things is going to trigger reluctance and being somewhat compassionate about it. And then finding a way to keep trying, even when it’s feeling hard.