I didn't sleep well the other night.
Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep is so unlike me, but it happened, and I was not feeling awesome afterward.
That morning I had been planning to go to an early morning yoga class with my husband. When my husband woke up to the alarm, I croaked, "Wake me up 15 minutes before we have to go." I fell back asleep for what felt like a split second and then was awoken by the lights getting flipped on. My husband saying, "It's time!". I laid there and toyed with the idea of just sleeping. He wouldn't be disappointed in me. He would just go and I wouldn't.
But, then this intense part of me nagged, "You've never once planned to go to an exercise class in the morning and not gone."
It's true. I have this weird fear that if I tell myself I'm going to do something (like go to an early morning yoga class) and then I don't do it, that all bets are going to be off for the rest of my life.
'I'll be one of those people with no "drive."'
I know this is ridiculous. As someone who works with people on changing their life habits, I am fully aware of the dangers this type of judgmental thinking.
However, this thinking is an unconscious driver of my life. This is who I am. I am driven. I am efficient. I am a doer. I wake up early and get shit done. I'm reliable and responsible and do everything I say I'm going to do.
Not all bad things, right?
Not all bad things, but dangerous things to think of as necessary to your well-being if your mind, body, or spirit aren't feeling it.
So...I pulled myself out of bed and went to the yoga class. I told myself I wouldn't push myself. I had heard a yoga teacher a few days back talk about how we should switch up our practice sometimes, so I thought to myself, "I'll just not do the chaturangas, planks, or side planks. It'll just be relaxing and I'll focus on what feels good."
When we got to the class, normally I would start warming up. I would do a few vinyasas or stretch in different positions. But that day, I just got directly in child's pose and stayed there; breathing and half sleeping.
When the teacher came in, she read a quote: "When the fire is within, balance is inevitable."
"Fire?" I thought, "Maybe I do need to push myself through this and make my fire burn! "
As we progressed through class, I did the chaturangas. I did the planks and side planks. I did the arm balances.
When the teacher was cueing a particularly difficult posture she said, "You don't stoke your inner fire by doing things that are easy."
This statement stopped me in my tracks. In that moment, while pushing myself into a posture that my body normally falls into gracefully, but required way more effort on that particular day, I realized that I was doing what was easy, not what was difficult.
I'm a pusher (I'm a coach!) and achiever. These personality traits serve me in a lot of ways, but more and more in my life, I'm realizing that maybe I need to chill-the-hell-out, and this was another one of these moments of chill-out clarity.
I came into that yoga studio with an intention to take a different path, a path that included presence. A path that included choosing to listen to the wisdom my body offers me on a moment to moment basis.
But what did I do? Immediately, I went with what is easy, what I know. I started going through the motions on auto-pilot, all under the guise of "stoking my inner fire," by working harder.
I realized, it would have actually been more difficult for me to stay present with my body and it's unique and individual needs on this particular day. My body that was a little slower and a little less nourished with sleep than normal.
Giving my body the space and stillness it needed was what was actully going to stoke my inner fire.
In our world, for better or for worse, we value busyness, moving, and doing more than we value rest, stillness, and being. People are always talking about what they should be doing. "I should exercise more." "I should eat better." "I should meditate."
However, I would argue that most people struggle way more with stillness more than they struggle with doing.
Let's all take a lesson from my story and not always choose to do the easiest thing. Even when the easiest thing may actually seem like the hardest thing (eg pushing yourself to eat in a restrictive way may be more familiar and easy then listening to your hunger, pushing yourself hard at a workout class might be easier than really slowing down and listening to your body, in the moment).
Sometimes the only way forward is to sit still.
Sometimes the only way to let our inner fire burn brighter is to give it some air.