It’s my 22nd birthday. It’s a birthday which doesn’t outwardly mean anything exciting like the 13th, 16th, or 21st does in our American culture but it is still another year of life to celebrate. I made it another 365.25 days of creating new experiences, meeting new people to form new relationships, and developing myself through education/overcoming a variety of personal challenges. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the exhausting amount of effort that it feels like life expects from us and the anxiety of facing the outside world with its roughness can make me feel like I’m being buried alive. When I feel like this, I turn to my steady practice of yoga.
When I practice yoga it makes me feel grounded because it lets me focus on one thing at a time and forces me to breathe in a steady rhythm without becoming distracted by the chaotic world outside of the four walls of the studio. This is a conscious choice: to let yourself become completely enveloped in the practice. You must temporarily release the grip you have on your personal problems and become in synch with the positive supportive energy in the room of your practice.
When you successfully rise up into a pose, you hold it with the strength of your legs, arms, core, whatever is stabilizing you to keep you up. Believe it or not, that’s the “easy” part. The challenging part and the part that we don’t always think about when we think about doing a yoga practice, is the transitions.
The in-between transitions of shifting from pose to pose is what takes the true strength of your muscles and your mind. Likewise, the transitions in our lives are what give us the true challenge and the strength to grow.
The in-between state of not knowing what you’re doing with your life after university, or the emptiness of your days after leaving a bad job (even if you know you’re better off without it) is the scary part that no one talks about because it’s uncomfortable.
But a peak yoga pose can’t be achieved without the pain and uncertainty of attempting to rise up on one leg into bird of paradise for the first time. And even if you fall, at least you tried. You gained muscle memory from trying to reach the pose and have garnered more strength for the next time you attempt to rise up. It will take practice and failure but eventually with perseverance you will be successful.
When you work to strengthen your muscles physically in your body, you are literally tearing apart the fibers in your muscles to start a cellular process in which they will rebuild to form new and stronger muscle protein strands. The discomfort of physically exercising these muscles is actually just breaking them down which will rebuild them back to become stronger than they were before.
Likewise, this is the same process as we face in our lives to make ourselves develop as people. By becoming uncomfortable we force ourselves to ourselves grow.
Turning 22 is just the beginning of a multitude of change and uncomfortable transitions I’m going to have to face in the next coming months. Graduating and moving away from my safety net of a college town San Luis Obispo, to Los Angeles which is a massive city full of chaos (and also great opportunity), will inevitably force me to grow… even if it does not feel like a comfortable situation in the moment.
Yoga has taught me that in order to achieve balance we must first fall out of line and learn how to recover, and that therefore in order to succeed we must learn how to overcome failure. Because if we came into life already knowing everything and having everything else handed to us without working for it, what would be the point of living?