In Yoga Thoughts

Hitting my stride: to achieve a regular or steady pace or course; to reach the point or level at which one functions most competently or consistently.” – Dictionary.com

I could easily add a third aspect to the above definition. Hitting my stride: what I haven’t quite done (yet).

It’s mid-September and everything still feels new, so I’m cutting myself a little slack. Plus, I still need to get one of my kids off to school, so I get a little more slack. Plus, I have added a new “tile” to my mosaic of part-time jobs that is my full-time job, so I get even a little more slack.

I still feel like I’m chasing myself most days. I still don’t know exactly what to expect each week – what days are jammed so full it might be a good idea to get Panera for dinner and what days I can walk the dogs. I’m still uncertain about when the “back office” stuff of life happens. My daughter’s schedule is surprising me as often as my own (usually predictable) schedule is, so some days have a little more adrenaline coursing through them than I’d like.

In short, I haven’t achieved a “regular or steady pace” nor am I functioning “most competently or consistently.”

But I have faith that I will hit my stride. Actually, in addition to faith, experience allows me to KNOW that I will. Probably within a week or two, to be precise.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we always had the wisdom of experience to reassure us that within (say) 14 days we will have worked out the kinks, hit our stride and once again be cruising smoothly through life? That would take the sting out of the awkward first weeks of anything and everything. Those weeks when we’re climbing the learning curve – feeling lost, confused, exploding with a bazillion questions and basically being mildly to severely ineffective.

Practicing yoga actually gives us exactly this wisdom of experience. While it won’t give us a hard deadline for when we can expect to hit our stride, it does reassure us that, no matter what new skill we’re navigating, eventually, it will be old hat.

I’m teaching a brand new group of students right now. While some of them have tried yoga, none have ever developed a steady, consistent practice. And none of them have ever tried Ashtanga yoga. Everything we do in class (postures, breathing, chanting), therefore, is brand new to them. Yet I can see them gaining confidence. I can feel them settling into the rhythm of the practice. I can sense a calmer, more settled energy in the classroom. They may not know it, but they are hitting their stride.

Within two weeks, they will feel competent enough on their mats that having a new posture to learn will feel exciting rather than overwhelming. They will have practiced consistently enough for long enough that the nature of their questions will change. Their understanding of what they’re doing on their mats will be more nuanced. Rather than asking about the alignment of their feet or whether they should reach up or out, they will begin to wonder about whether they’re wrapping their arm around their back on an inhale or an exhale, or where they should gaze in a posture.

I know this because I’ve taught many, many groups of new students. I have the wisdom of experience.

Yet, I believe that, at a certain level, my students know it too. I believe that they can feel their confidence building as we move through our opening sun salutations in each class. I believe that they feel the new smoothness and efficiency of their movements. And I believe that their (fairly quickly earned) newfound proficiency in sun salutations is as much a mental and emotional gift as it is a physical one. Knowing that they hit their stride with this new feat in just six classes will assure them that they can and will learn the whole series. Better yet, it will give them the peace of mind to allow them to enjoy learning what they don’t know as much as they enjoy practicing what they do.

That bears repeating: hitting your stride allows you to enjoy learning what you don’t know as much as you enjoy practicing what you already do know.

Life very rarely send you the same experiences day in and day out. (If it did, you would be so bored.) The thrill of living comes from learning, stretching and growing. Which is easiest to embrace with wide open arms and a wide open heart when you have hit your stride.

Have faith that you will. Better yet, know that you will. (I’m talking to me, too.)

Practice and all is coming.” – Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

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