not practicing today? what’s your excuse?

in january 2007 i made a commitment to myself to practice yoga. 4 months later i started keeping a journal to keep myself honest, because trying to establish a daily yoga practice isn’t easy. the goal was to record every practice every day. if i didn’t practice i had to say why, ostensibly so i could look back and see how lame my excuses were. i still keep a daily record of my practice, forming the basis for my research documented here. here are a few of my funnier excuses over the years:

  • 20 APR 2007: skip. went to see 300 for inspiration
  • 14 MAY 2007: skip- tired, stiff, no real reason just stubborn!
  • 2 DEC 2007: 4 days off wow!! it would be so easy to just stop
  • 17 APR 2008: power out, skipped
  • 1 FEB 2009: sun-bathed (note: srsly?!)
  • 8 OCT 2009: feeling lazy and ate Nando’s last night
  • 1 OCT 2010: tired, slept on my mat

3 months ago i began listing excuses i invented for not going to parkour training. i always ended up going, but why did i resist? i always learned new things, and i always felt like i had accomplished something afterwards. what is it that makes us not want to practice when we know there’s a reward on the other side? these excuses reminded me of the so-called ‘5 stages of grieving’. many of my excuses over the initial weeks of training fell into these categories (do any of these sound familiar to you?):

  1. denial and isolation: i’m not going! i have too many things to do. i could really use an evening alone with a glass of red wine.
  2. anger (and/or fear): i hate you mind/body/self! it hurts! (with associated whinging, crying, moaning, groaning, gasping, expressive sighing, etc.) it’s going to hurt, i am going to be so sore tomorrow. i’m going to look like an idiot in front of all those people!
  3. bargaining: is it ok if i just sit and watch? my physio told me i can only move my arms this high, so i’m going to have to pass on that particular exercise. i’m a girl! (i have not played the gender card- i SWEAR!) i’m over 40! (note: you cannot play the age and gender cards together.)
  4. depression: i’ll never be any good at this. i suck! everyone else is better than me. i am absolutely bone-tired.
  5. acceptance: this is awesome! wow, i just did something i’ve never done before! i can’t wait to get out there and practice. these blocks look…smaller, that precision looks…closer. hey, this morning i’m not so sore!

how is learning something new like the grieving process? looking at my journey, i’m losing bits of my ego every time i practice parkour. i’m good at yoga, yoga makes me feel great, and i’ve practiced and accomplished much within the discipline. now, switching disciplines, every precision missed, flip failed, vault crashed, removes another brick from the foundation of my ego, and that smarts. i’ve come a long way in 3 months of pk training, my beginner’s mind no longer fights the process; it has become aware of and accepted the work (and the numerous failures) required to move forward. and my ego has decided to take a back seat  where it won’t get hurt so often.

i understand why i resist, so what keeps me going? tapas is one of the niyamas meaning austerity, but literally means heat or flow. without tapas, or a commitment to the discipline, any errors, failures, etc, become negative reinforcers rather than positive ones. in other words, you give up. before i even knew about tapas i was committed to developing a daily yoga practice; i documented failures as a tool to explore and recognize resistance when it appeared. now, i am absolutely dedicated to adapting my body and mind to the practice of parkour, and i’m bringing my tapas with me!

in the end, the excuses we create for not practicing aren’t lame, they are a valid part of our learning experience. the foam (or concrete) block in our way is only a physical obstacle to overcome. confronting the obstacles created by our minds (or egos) tell us much more about who we are than we could learn clawing our way over that brick wall. what am i running from? why am i hiding here? what am i waiting for?! these types of questions, perhaps generated by a physical sensation or object are in many ways a mirror, showing us what’s going on inside us. and tapas is what gets you through it, it makes you come back for more. so i’ll see you all out there, because my tapas has burned away (some of) my ego on the inside and i’m ready for any obstacle now.

* thanks to the RMA FB group for helping me finish a blog post that had been stagnating for so long.

** and a very special THANK YOU to the teaching staff at Ekam Yoga for allowing me to have tuesday/thursday evenings and saturday mornings free. you guys make my ‘alternative yoga’ practice possible!

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