I’ve been through a lot of fitness phases in my journey. There’s one phase that I’ve been thinking a lot lately: that time that I was doing Bikram Yoga.
Bikram Yoga is a yoga practice done in an ungodly hot and humid room. The class is a series of 26 poses, done in the same order, held for the same amount of time. You could go to a Birkam Yoga class in California, Brazil, Germany, or Japan, and each instructor is taught to cue the poses the same way.
Some will look at this form of a class and think that it sounds boring: Doing the same exercises in the same order every single time? Ugh! I need some variety! Yes, you could look at it that way, but here’s the thing. Doing yoga this way taught me something about my body. Well, to be truthful, about bodies in general. Every day our body is different, and I think that’s pretty fascinating.
We often think that flexibility, speed, or strength is a linear progression. When we hit a certain benchmark, whatever it is, we think that we will always be able to do that again. Once it’s achieved, it’s ours forever. Well, it’s not that simple. We get Personal Records (PRs) because in one instance, all of our stars have lined up correctly: sleep, diet, recovery, stress management, and mindset.
In my personal experience with this, I am SO not flexible. I remember being so relieved when I learned that my flexibility was determined by my parents flexibility. That flexibility is genetically pre-determined, and It’s not my fault that I have to work hard to touch the floor with my legs straight. My hamstrings and lower back are consistently tight, and although stretching helps, it’s something that I have to do on a regular basis, and I’m just not one of those bendy people that you find in yoga classes. But I can get bendy-er.
There’s this one pose in the Bikram sequence where the feet are wide, and grabbing onto your heels, the goal is to place the head on the floor. I think the first time I saw that, I thought to myself, “Oh Hell No!” But, as I kept attending class, first I was able to grab my feet. Then, eventually, my head got closer & closer to the floor. Then came the day that it touched! “Oh my god! Oh My God! My head is touching the floor!”
The next day, I went to class, showing my peacock feathers, “I can do this pose now!”
But when we got to that pose in class? Nope. Didn’t happen. My head didn’t touch the floor.
During the time that I was practicing that type of yoga, I was never able touch my head to the ground again.
There are two things about this story that still really resonate with me.
First, your body is different every single day. And if you’re looking for linear progression, you’re probably going to be disappointed. There will be days that you won’t be as strong, flexible or fast as you were the day before, and that’s okay. The take away here is that as long as you’re doing your best, and working hard, you should progress.
But here’s the other thing, which I think is a bigger point: What if you could approach everything you did with a sense of wonder? “I wonder how much weight I can lift today?” Or, “I wonder how fast I can run today?” Or, “I wonder if I can touch my head to the floor today?” If you don’t try, you don’t know what you can do.
So often, we approach a task or job with a fixed mindset: it’s either I can do that or I can’t. I’m good at this skill, or I’m not. What if we started approaching life with the attitude of “I don’t know if I can do that. Let’s find out.” We’d have to quiet that negative voice inside our heads that tells us that we can’t. Yes, we all have that tiny voice in our head. The key is not to listen to it.
When you start with start small, seemingly insignificant things, like using a heavier dumbbell doing an additional repetition (because you can), or running on the treadmill at .1 speed faster than normal, you can work up to bigger accomplishments. You get stronger, and it builds momentum that carries over into other parts of your life.
Where can you lean into doing more? Where have you been okay with being comfortable? Where can you afford to get a little uncomfortable?