My boyfriend Alex and I talk a lot about how people have become soft. How nothing is really hard to do anymore because of all the luxuries we have, how people now are so used to living the easy life.
This conversation usually takes place in a well air-conditioned coffee shop as we sip on coffee and tea while having a waiter bring us our lunch. : )
Being alive is easier than it ever has been. There are services, products, devices and machines to ease the oh-so-difficult task of living. This morning I ordered a book off of Amazon in about thirty seconds—I typed in the book title, bought it with the “one-click” option and hit confirm with my already saved credit card information and shipping address. I didn’t even have to get dressed.
Dinner can be ready in five minutes. Or, if putting something into the microwave is too much work, we can call for delivery. A gourmet meal, brought to our doorstep, in less than twenty minutes. Dish washers wash the dishes for us. Or, if this proves to be too tiring, we can use paper plates and simply throw them away. No work. No hassle. No stress of any kind.
What the hell?
When did we become so good at being catered to? When did making dinner or going to a bookstore become some horrible, gut-wrenchingly stressful endeavour? Even with all of the ease that the technological world has provided us with, we still act like our daily errands, chores, and lives in general are so extremely stressful. This is funny, because we truly do live in the easiest of times.
Sometimes I see this happening in yoga classes. I see students constantly using the wall for headstand, even though they’ve been practicing for years and could do it in the middle of the room just fine. As soon as I give the option of bent knees in navasana, students take it. People look at me like I’ve just killed their first born child if I make them hold a pose for more than ten breaths. I get death stares during the core-strengthening sequences of class.
Of course, they could just be having a shitty day where they feel like taking it easy–I don’t know what’s going on in my student’s lives that may be making them bend their knees in navasana. I don’t judge them. I’m just seeing a trend, and when I ask them “why are you using the wall for headstand” they usually say, “I’ve never tried it without the wall.”
I have never been the ooey-gooey, soft voiced, melt your heart and take-a-child’s-pose-if-it-feels-better kind of yoga teacher. This just isn’t me–first of all because I don’t understand what it means to “melt your heart” (I do, however, understand “take your sternum closer to the floor”). Second of all, let’s face it–child’s pose ALWAYS feels better. I know that resting is necessary and shows a great deal of control over the ego, but not when you rest every time you feel slightly challenged. I urge my students not to use the wall for their inversions because if you can’t come into headstand in the middle of the room then you probably shouldn’t be doing it at all. This is a sign that you are not yet strong enough, and that is just fine.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not a drill sergeant yoga teacher–I still laugh, talk about love and compassion, and say the word shit, but I am not about to let my students leave without feeling like they did some physical, mental, and spiritual work.
I feel like part of my job as a yoga teacher is to remind my students of their strength by creating a challenge, either physically or mentally. Physically, I’ll have students hold poses for longer than is comfortable, urge them to try something difficult, to get out of their comfort zones. But even when I’m teaching very relaxing classes, like yin or restorative, I still feel that my job of presenting a challenge is the same. It is a different challenge though, that of staying with the breath, being still, noticing thoughts, being present. These things are just as challenging, if not more so, than the physical stuff. Yin yoga still proves to be the most challenging of all yoga practices for me.
I went to Gentle yoga this morning with the always hilarious and lovely Sue Finkle. She knows well how to keep challenging us, either by reminding us to breathe deep, keep our thoughts from taking over, or to let go of tension–all while teaching an extremely relaxing, gentle class. If you ever have the chance, go to her class. Your day will be made.
I have gone to a yoga class before where the teacher presented no challenge to us at all. Not physically, emotionally, or spiritually. The best word to describe how I felt after that class is empty.
Empty is how I feel, too, when I find myself stressed about something that is actually not stressful at all. Damn, I have to unload the dish washer…laundry to fold…errands to run…groceries to buy. In reality, all of these things are quite the luxuries.
We have become very soft as a culture.
This transfers over into other areas of our lives as well. When someone cuts us off on the freeway, we get so offended, so angry, take it so personally. If a friend forgets to call us back we take it as if they hate our guts. When the guy making our coffee doesn’t smile and ask how our day is, we don’t go back to that cafe.
Drama, drama, drama.
The irony is that we all have been through real bad times, actual horrible situations, times when stress and drama are justified. And during those moments, we have proved that we are brave and strong, incredibly strong. Somehow though, we forget this, and all the sudden when our friend bails on lunch it’s like our life is completely over.
So do something out of your comfort zone, something that seems oh-so-stress-inducing that actually isn’t, something that maybe even irritates you. Push yourself. This can be done in the most gentle of ways, like deciding to sit still and close your eyes for five minutes. Go deeper, make it count, be brave. Toughen up. Let it go. Make dinner from scratch. Do something to remind yourself of your inner strength. It’s been there all along.