I love a challenge. Testing myself. Curiously pushing further, stretching my limits. Investigating new possibilities. It’s not about adrenaline. Not about the thrill of danger. My challenges are always about improving my life. Improving my strength, courage, compassion, skills and wellbeing. Becoming more real. More ME.
This means I’m on a constant journey inside my head. Sometimes it’s a leisurely walk under sunny skies. Sometimes a challenging adventure. True, some of my so-called adventures would probably underwhelm you. Things that others never think twice about might take all of my willpower to overcome or achieve.
On that note, this week I went back to my yoga classes after two weeks of absence. Sickness and travel had kept me away. Now, I was nervous. Not so much because I felt out of shape, but because I knew that they had started doing part of the class without instructions. I would have to perform the initial fifteen minutes of Surya Namaskar on my own, at my own pace. This stirred up a whole flock of butterflies in my stomach.
During the last few months, I had overcome my first anxieties and hesitations about doing yoga at all. I had even come to love it, realizing that it’s the effort that counts, not the result. (In other words, being unable to place my leg behind my head does not make me a failure.) However, now the challenges have been cranked up a notch. Like having to do things without someone telling me what to do. Naturally, it wasn’t a big deal, once I did it. And I knew beforehand that I would be just fine, which made it fairly easy to ignore the butterflies, take a few deep breaths and just do it.
That was a purely mental challenge. The next one was both physical and mental. And more difficult. And unexpected. And I panicked.
If you are a yoga devotee, you know that this is a headstand. Getting into position, I was probably a bit like a rabbit that just heard a twig break. Alert, anticipating disaster, but absolutely still and calm on the surface. I planted my forearms and head on the floor. Then with my butt pointing straight up, I started easing my feet closer to my head. Meanwhile, my whole being screamed silently: DON’T DO IT!
Of course I didn’t do it. I just sat back down, shook my head when the instructor asked if I wanted help, and stared at the floor in front of me until we moved on.
Every yoga class ends with a few minutes of relaxing flat on our backs. I’m usually a master at relaxation. Honestly, I can fall asleep wherever, whenever. This time I kept taking shallow breaths, staring at the ceiling, listening intensely to the incoherent thoughts of nothingness rushing through my head.
I hated this experience. But I love the challenge it places before me. I hated the sudden fear. But I love the opportunity it offers me, to be brave and conquer myself. Once again.