Updated: Jan 12, 2020
This morning I went to my computer and pressed play on an online yoga class. I had decided to do a class with a different teacher who is running a five-day January Jumpstart program for health and fitness. About five minutes into the class, I had this incredible sense of discomfort. The pose I was doing was really challenging and I lost my balance. I hit the Stop button and was ready to give up, but then I remembered that earlier this morning I was thinking about the role that discomfort plays in our lives. You may be familiar with the ideology that when we go outside of our comfort zone there is an opportunity for growth, and this was a perfect example of me getting out of my yoga comfort zone. Was I ready to grow, to be challenged, to look at things from a different angle and find the humility to get over myself?
Well, I hit Play and continued the class.
It was challenging but it made me realise that I have been sitting in my yoga comfort zone for too long. I use the excuse that because I live in a remote location, I have fewer opportunities to go to classes. Although this is true, and nothing can actually beat being physically present in a room with a teacher, the world of online yoga is readily available to me (as in my example above). But this means I have more power to pick and choose the classes I do, and can stop and give up at the click of a button. This is much more difficult in a room with a teacher, as walking out in the middle of the class is not something I would generally do (although I have done it once, but that is another story!).
Then it made me consider whether I am challenging my yoga students enough too. And then I started to think about what I need to do to challenge my yoga students to bring them outside of their comfort zones so they can grow. This is a real dilemma, especially as students present with different strengths and weaknesses, along with certain injuries or incapacitations. It is always a challenge to teach a class to so many different bodies, but ultimately it is more than the body that we are working on. It is the mind, body and spirit connection that is the focus, so my role as a teacher is to guide my students to develop that connection within themselves.
So how does stepping out of our comfort zone help us connect mind, body and spirit?
In yoga, the physical poses are designed to challenge us. As my teacher Andzej said many times, if you can do the poses easily, then you no longer need to do them and you can get on with your life. It is the difficult poses that give you the greatest insights, where you discover your weakness and vulnerability, and you can use this as an opportunity to grow. When you do a challenging pose in yoga, it means you are connecting the physical discomfort of your body with the power of your mind and can observe the thoughts that are going through your head. What you do next will require a connection to your spirit, your life force or ‘ki’, where your whole self becomes involved in the pose. Ideally, you will sink into the feeling and become aware of your ki holding you there. This may fluctuate as different sensations flow through your body, or you lose balance and fall over like I did this morning. Either way, there is a window to your spirit. Each pose is an opportunity to expand into it. Through practicing different poses in a yoga class, the feeling will grow into a deeper experience – the result being the willingness to step outside your comfort zone in a space that is safe and supportive.
Discomfort is a good teacher, and this is just one example of how yoga can be used as a tool to embrace life outside your comfort zone. There are many, many areas of life where you will be presented with the opportunity to experience discomfort. Will you be courageous and embrace these opportunities with positive intention, or shy away in fear? Yes, it will be challenging, but I believe the universe will support you in these challenges if you step into them with a connection to your higher self. In the ever-deepening spiral of life, you will be continuously challenged to venture past the edge of comfort. I wish you well on your journey and I am here to support you.