13 Mar 2015

Allow a little ‘give’ when stretching

Yoga I’ve been doing yoga for nearly a year now (If you want the full picture I also drink ‘Bon’soy lattes, but draw the line at kale smoothies).

A few months ago my regular teacher had to leave to further her own practice and I was on the hunt for a new location.

I decided to try Mysore Ashtanga Yoga, a completely different type of yoga for me. There was no instructor up the front of the class for me to follow posture for posture – in Ashtanga an instructor gives you a series of postures, which you have to memorise to eventually just practice on your own. The routine starts quite simply with lots of repetition – and as you get better, the instructor adds a little more in for you to do – you know, just mixes it up a bit – breaks the routine – moves the bloody goal posts!

Talk about ‘stretch’ – I started to lose sleep on the night before I knew had to get up at 5.30 to start my practice. I would restlessly toss and turn muttering through my bite splint about Trikonasana and Surya Namaskara and which came first and how many repetitions I should do. I would arrive for practice tired and in a total panic, forget everything I needed to do and lean heavily on the instructor to have to keep reminding me. There was one day I was convinced that the instructor had forgotten about me and left me lying there ‘relaxing’ at the end of my practice (how dare he). After a time I just gingerly got up, stealthy rolled up my mat and tiptoed the hell out of there – then I ran home and hyperventilated about whether to email the instructor to apologise for not waiting for his instruction. This was all in the first two weeks.

There was nothing wrong with the practice, or the instructor – it was me and my need to be perfect at everything immediately. Instead of being inspired by the expertise around me, I was intimidated by the guy doing a headstand while I was, well touching my toes (barely – damn these stubby fingers). Instead of welcoming the challenge of memorising an ever evolving routine, I saw it as a test that I would fail (because I’m convinced I have early early early onset dementia and can’t remember a darn thing – blergh, where are my keys!?)

I realised I was wasting an opportunity to grow and improve at my own pace – irrespective of everything going on around me.

A little healthy competition is fine, but competitiveness can drive us forward into something that we’re not ready for. Being able to block out everything around you and just focus internally on your own personal development is invaluable. It’s true of workplace learning that at times we’re all expected to run before we can walk, whether that expectation comes from an internal or an external source. It’s a challenge but think about how your learners work and learn – do they need just a little upfront to get the ball rolling and then with some assessment/critique, a little more to help them grow and stretch to that next level?

I now (yeah OK I’m only in week 3) frame my learning experience, that everyday I practice I get closer to that headstand – in about 2-3 years I’ll have it nailed, that’s ok I’ll have some pretty strong foundations by then to keep building on.