We’ve just returned from a holiday in Belize, a gorgeous country that was about a hundred times more rugged than we expected. When I say rugged, I’m not talking about our adventures in the jungle that were plenty rugged. Mostly, I’m talking about the roads.

The three miles from the tiny village of Hopkins to the house that we rented could hardly be described as a road. Truly, there were more ponds and mud puddles than dirt. The first time we bounced down this road, we were mostly stunned. All of us woke the next morning convinced it couldn’t possibly be as bad as it seemed the night before. As we headed out into the day, however, it was clear when my daughter’s head thudded into the window as we navigated the second gigantic hole, that it was indeed unbelievably rough.

As we drove home that day, we passed the sign in the picture above. “Stop!” I yelled. Confused, my husband put on the brakes. I jumped out to take a picture. “It’s perfect! It will be our vacation theme.” And, for me, it was.

You see, we had a choice in how we spent those twenty to thirty minutes of each of our precious vacation days. We could moan and groan about the potholes, ponds and mud that made up our road. Or we could put smiles on our faces and weave the bumps into our amazing opportunity to explore and experience another corner of the world.

Pretty good life lesson, actually.

It’s a lesson I have the opportunity to practice a great deal on my yoga mat as well. There are postures I’ve been working on for nearly 15 years that, when I’m in them, I still feel very tight. In the beginning, I kept thinking one day, instead of feeling difficult, these postures would feel natural, easy or even comfortable. Years of practice later, I realize that these feelings are the whole point. When my muscles feel stretched or taxed (especially that stubborn “muscle” in my head), it means I’m changing and growing.

Rather than wishing these sensations away, yoga asks us to seek these experiences. On our mats, we’re asked to move into each posture in search of the opportunity to rise to a challenge, to learn something new and to push ourselves just past our comfort zone. As we practice yoga, we learn to breathe evenly and deeply no matter our experience. We learn to embrace growth, even when it’s challenging to do so.

While the metaphorical bumps in the road in my yoga practice are designed not to be avoided, the rental car companies in Belize appreciate it if you avoid as many bumps as possible. But, by making a choice in how we navigated those bumpy roads, we avoided more than potholes. In embracing the country bumps and all, we were able to fully appreciate its raw and wonderful beauty. And to better appreciate some of the “smoother” aspects of life back home.

Challenges can bring us down or lift of us up. How we experience them is our choice to make.