…And start stretching

So, comparison, my old life coach, has been dead all along. What has taken its place? Yoga.

 I started yoga several years ago to counteract my lack of exercise. As a technical writer making a living by typing documents in a cubicle for 8 hours a day, I needed to reconnect to my body parts—other than my eyeballs, fingertips, and tongue (for consuming a gallon of coffee).

Before my first class the teacher gave students this warning: “Everybody is different. Only your body can tell you how much you can stretch, and where to stop. Comparing your posture with others does more harm than good.” Untiringly he did that before every class, and more untiringly, I kept staring at other students all the time. Even after a year I was in constant despair watching a first-timer placing her full palm onto the floor while my fingertips were still crawling for the last mile: 3cm to the rendezvous point. Surely comparison was doing a great deal of harm—to my confidence.

This peep-and-despair sadomasochistic training continued until one day I realized I was reaching higher than the Elasti-Girls (and boys) during a back-bend. I thought I was doing things the wrong way for the 100th time. But I wasn’t; neither were they. I am doing better than them. My Archimedes moment finally let me digest the first message from my teacher: Everybody is different. Maybe my body didn’t stretch as far as I hoped, but it could sustain me higher.

After this revelation, I finally started to pay attention to the signals coming from my limbs, not my eyeballs. I learned to close my eyes as if to give them some rest after a day’s work. And as I focused inward, I streamlined all postures into three simple movements: stretch my body to the point where pain and pleasure meet, stay there for a while, and then release the tension. I wasn’t working toward an objective anymore, but instead endlessly looping the cycle of stretch, reach, and release.

Yet finally I started to feel my body evolving. I did not notice it in terms of quantity (length, height, or depth) as much as in terms of quality (comfort, confidence, …still struggling for the third “c”…. whatever). I wasn’t morphing into another profile, but I was becoming more flexible and relaxed, which was noted by the teacher. I ditched all objectives and let my body grow on its own terms. Previously, the whole point of yoga was about getting in touch with my body. Now another point has been added: growing up.

I don’t know why I haven’t applied the teachings of yoga to other corners of my life yet. The idea is so simple: start from within, not outside. Instead of reaching out for a goal (and losing balance), I can stretch my whole being while grounded into reality. The downside is that I cannot control how exactly I will change, but it’s all right in the end: Why spoil the future now?